Write On!

Holly and Jolly

In Responses on December 15, 2011 at 8:23 pm

by Amy Ables Lawson

For a guy whose belly laugh was one of his trademarks, he sure didn’t feel very jolly.  He glanced at his watch again. Drat! He was fifteen minutes past the absolute latest he could leave and make his rounds on time! He would have been well on his way if he’d been able to blow through Walgreen’s like he’d originally planned. But no, just as he was leaving, Holly remembered a couple of “essential” ingredients for the Christmas dinner party that he wouldn’t be able to find at the drug store.

“Sweetie, since you’re going out anyway, couldn’t you just quickly grab a few things for me?”

Quickly? She knew there was no such thing as “quickly” at Walmart any day of the year, but especially not on Christmas Eve! All he needed was an extra set of double A batteries (to replace the ones she’d taken from his stash) for Ben in Florida’s remote control helicopter. That would have just been an errand. Now he had an actual shopping list which made this a full-fledged shopping trip.

The crowd in the store was ridiculous. How were all of those people still so woefully unprepared? Every year, much to the chagrin of many, retailers pushed Christmas into the spotlight a little earlier than they had the year before. This year Black Friday started on Thursday, for crying out loud!  Why then, were these people out buying whatever they could grab from any shelf for Aunt Sally instead of sitting home with their families by a crackling fire drinking hot chocolate and watching Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life?

That’s where he wanted to be right now. Instead he had to fight his way through frantic, last-minute shoppers to get to the baking aisle to find the things Holly needed. Then he waited in a line that snaked all the way back to sporting goods, only to have the cashier for his line take her break when he was only three people away from the register. Twenty-five excruciatingly long minutes later, it was his turn and now he was finally out of that loud, stuffy, crowded excuse for a store.

Only where in the world had he parked?

He’d been wandering aimlessly for the last five minutes to no avail. He just couldn’t remember where he’d parked it. His boots were certainly not made for walking. They were part of his uniform and they kept his feet warm, but they weren’t good for tracking up and down the parking lot rows of Walmart.

He could almost feel his blood pressure going up a number with every step he took. And  then he could hear Holly’s voice in his head reminding him that he should calm down and think about his heart.Ever since she’d started watching Dr. Oz, Holly had been on him about his weight. She’d started introducing strange dishes to their dinner time like kale and goji berries and she’d been making him take handfuls of supplements. It’s a wonder he didn’t rattle when he walked!

Hadn’t he parked closer to the home and garden entrance? Maybe he’d look over there again.

He’d tried to explain to Holly that if he lost too much weight his suit wouldn’t fit right and no one likes a skinny Santa, but she’d countered that by saying that no one likes a dead Santa either. She could be rather pointed when she needed to be. He, on the other hand, tended to wound with silence, but he was sure the deep sighs and door slam he’d given on his way out had communicated to her exactly how he felt about being put upon on this, his busiest day of the year.

He doubted she’d even notice the sighs and slam he’d offered for her benefit. He felt particularly unappreciated this year. Year after year after year he fulfilled his responsibilities. It was up to him to keep up with the Naughty and Nice lists. He was the one who got all the presents ready. He made sure the reindeers were trained and kept all their shots and vet visits up-to-date. He was the one who did the salary negotiations with the elves each year. If a “helper Santa” had a fake beard or bad breath or lacked the necessary people skills for the job, he was the one who heard about it.  How in the world had he become responsible for the happiness of everyone’s Christmas? Sure it was Santa’s big scene, but he wished just one year, Holly would take on a little more of the responsibility. He bet that if he asked her she wouldn’t be able to tell him even one gift that THEY were giving Rudolph this year. But right there on the sticker that he’d put on the gift it said, Merry Christmas to Rudolph from Santa and Mrs. Claus. He did all the work, but she shared the credit.

He vaguely remembered parking near a blue minivan that had those family stickers on the back window. This one had a mom, a dad, two little girls, a little boy, and a dog, all wearing Mickey Mouse ears. He could really go for a Disney vacation. Or even better, a Disney cruise!

That was another thing that really irked him. He’d wanted to pick up Holly after his last stop and head straight to their favorite island for an extended vacation. They usually left a few weeks after Christmas, but this year he had hoped they could go earlier. He’d mentioned it to Holly right after Thanksgiving, but he knew what she’d say before he even asked.

“But what about the Celebration? We have to host the Appreciation Celebration!”

Every year, Holly threw an elaborate party that started on Christmas day the minute the first reindeer hoof touched the ground back at the North Pole. Back in the old days the party took place on Christmas Eve just before he left to deliver his presents. Everyone got together to give him a big send-off and wish him well on his journey. It didn’t take long for everyone to realize that a party just before a trip of that nature was more hectic than fun. Plus some of the elves had gotten married and their wives’ families expected them to be with them on Christmas Eve. So then for a few years the party was a “Welcome Home, Santa” party. But somewhere along the way, it morphed into an “Appreciation Celebration” to thank all the elves and reindeers and other helpers for making that year’s Christmas a big success.

What he would have really appreciated after trekking all over the world in a sleigh with a bunch of barn animals was a hot bath and a long winter’s nap. He didn’t feel very appreciative when his ample backside had been frozen to a seat up at the altitudes where icicles form. By the end of his trip, body parts hurt that he didn’t even know he had.

“Oh, you just have a to make a little appearance, eat a cookie or two, and then you can go right up to bed,” Holly had cooed when he’d complained this year.

Didn’t she get that it took him at least until mid-July to look a chocolate chip cookie in the face? She had no idea how many mugs of lukewarm milk he’d choked down in his lifetime. And how in the world could he get to sleep when a bunch of jolly old elves were rocking around his Christmas tree in the new old-fashioned way? What did “new old-fashioned” mean anyway? Was it new or was it old-fashioned? What a stupid song!

It wasn’t just the physical exhaustion that got him this time of year, it was also the emotional price he had to pay. He had read a few of his letters to Holly, but he spared her the most painful ones. So many children who would give up all of their toys for just a little peace in their house. So many children asking for things he just couldn’t give them.

Maybe he should call her and let her know why he was running late. No. Bad idea. If he called she’d probably remind him that she’d told him to download the parking lot app on his iPhone.

“It makes a note of where you parked so you won’t forget. You start rushing around and get a little scatter-brained this time of year with all you have to remember. It would be a big help, dear.”

Wasn’t it bad enough that she’d talked him into carrying the blasted iPhone in the first place? He just wasn’t a fan of all this new-fangled technology. He had to admit that the GPS had more than paid for itself by helping him plot his route. And it was a lot easier to keep track of his Naughty and Nice lists on his iPad instead of that big book he used to haul around. But he couldn’t let her have the “I told you so” on this one. He’d just have to find his sleigh the old-fashioned way.

He pushed the panic button on his key fob one more time, knowing that the battery was dead, but hoping against hope that maybe it had built up enough juice to honk the sleigh horn just once for long enough to follow the sound and find the sleigh. Nope. Nothing. Dead as Jacob Marley.

He was being stubborn, he knew it. His aggravation wasn’t all about Holly. She’d put up with his crazy Christmases a lot better than any other woman would have, that’s for sure. She knew what she was getting into when she married him, but she never complained about his crazy work hours or the strange conglomeration of elves and reindeer and snowfolk that he called family. In fact, she’d immediately stepped right into her role as Mama Claus and everyone loved her as much as (sometimes he even though maybe even better than) they loved him. Now whenever they needed wise counsel, they ran to Holly instead of him. They knew he was too busy to really stop and listen. Was that it? Was he jealous that it felt like he did all the work but she was the one they really loved best?

“Mommy! It’s Santa!”

He’d almost forgotten where he was until that sweet voice snapped him back to reality. He smiled down at the little face staring up at his. Like a mental Rolodex, he immediately recalled her data. Anna Blake, age 4. Sister: Ruby Blake. Top Wish List item: GoGo My Walkin’ Pup. Remember dog treats to silence her real-life yappy dog.

“It’s one of his helpers, sweetie. Now stay with me, please!” Anna’s frenzied mother never even looked his way. He gave a wink to Anna as her mother hurried her by. He stood there watching as she turned her head, straining for one more look at him. He gave a little wave.

He was thankful that the busyness of grown-ups served as an invisibility cloak for him. It sure made it easier for him to come and go unseen this time of year. Everyone was so preoccupied with creating the best Christmas ever that they never even noticed him. So sure he was just another one of “Santa’s helpers,” they passed by the real thing and never even knew it.

You’d think there’d at least be a crowd around his sleigh. It’s not everyday that you get to see a bunch of reindeer hooked to a magic sleigh. But the people just walked on by never seeing, so busy with the makings of Christmas that they really didn’t have much time for Christmas itself.

At least the kids could still see him and believe.  And that’s what he was doing all this for anyway, right? He dreaded the day when little Anna had been hurried through enough Christmases that she stopped seeing him, too. But it would happen sooner than he would like. It always did. Eventually they all stopped seeing him. And Christmas become just another bunch of chores to check off their lists.

But isn’t that what had happened to him? Somewhere along the way, he wasn’t quite sure when or where, Christmas had become just another thing he had to do. He’d stopped seeing Christmas for what it really was. It was supposed to be an Appreciation Celebration, but it wasn’t really about him or Holly or the elves and reindeer.

He’d really liked those Santa kneeling at the manger statues that had been popular a few years ago. They’d reminded him that his role in Christmas was supposed to be in the supporting cast, not the leading man. No, that role had gone to a baby. A baby who would grow up to save the world.

How had his focus gotten so out of whack again so quickly? He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Holly was right. He needed to slow down and take a minute to really see what was important. All the other stuff would work its way out. Somehow it always did. The presents would be delivered. He’d make it home in time for the Appreciation Celebration.  And this year, for the first time in a long time, he’d take the time to really appreciate what was most important to him: his faith, his family, and his friends.

This year, he would take the time to really see. Starting now.

He looked up and there it was. His sleigh. Right where he’d parked it. He wondered just how many times he’d passed by it. He just didn’t see it.

He pulled his cell phone out of his furry coat’s pocket and pushed a few buttons.

“Baby, get my travel mug ready. I’m on my way. Love you. Bye.”

He glanced at his watch. If he hurried, he might have just enough time to stop by Starbuck’s and get Holly one of those peppermint hot chocolates she loved so much. Or maybe he’d just take his time and get her one anyway.

He slid into the driver’s seat of the sleigh and dashed away through the wintery night.


Amy is a wife, mother, blogger, and God-follower with a fantastic sense of humor to go along with her beautiful smile. Check out her musings at www.snoodlings.com

  1. […] piece about Santa being outsourced by those little Elf on the Shelf guys.  It’s a fun site. Check it out! Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  2. Loved it!!!

  3. love you so much! wonderful work!

  4. Amy, this is a great story! I didn’t pay attention that it was yours till I was at the end, so I read without prejudice and I loved it! KEEP WRITING!! You have real talent!

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