I took Zelma to get her picture taken on Santa's lap today.
It was already going badly on the way there, when Zelma started crying because she couldn't get her tights off. She had one boot off, and had gotten some substantial parts of her white tights blackened in the process, and her hat was off, and it was ten degrees out, snowing, but never mind all that. We get there, finally, to the upscale mall where you don't have to pay to sit on Santa, you just snap your own picture, and Santa was late. The sign said he was off feeding his reindeer, back by ten, and we were still waiting at 10:15, waiting in front of this enormous gingerbread man, stolen from the set of "Yoshimi Battles the Giant Gingerbread." This little two year old boy, wearing a Christmas sweater than only a two year old boy can pull off, asked me, "Are you Santa?"
I try my best to always take children seriously, or at least a little bit more seriously than I take adults.
"No," I said, "I am not Santa." He then looked at Zelma.
"Are you Santa?" he asked her.
Zelma considered this seriously. Perhaps she was Santa. Perhaps she was not. She couldn't say.
"She's not Santa," I said. "Santa isn't here."
"Santa is parking his sleigh," said the woman I presumed to be his mother. "He'll be here soon." Or, I thought, he's committing sodomy in the dressing room at Macy's. I saw "Bad Santa." I know how these things work.
Santa then came. He was dressed in this red suit and wearing a disturbingly bushy beard, like a terrorist who doesn't want to be recognized. Perhaps he was hiding fangs. He held children in his lap. "Smile," said a father as he took the picture.
"It doesn't matter if I smile," said Santa. "No one can see my mouth, anyway."
It was true. It was impossible to make out his mouth.
Our turn came. Zelma rather reluctantly approached the small stairway to Santa's gingerbread vinyl couch. He called her, "princess." This is the first time anyone has ever called Zelma "princess". I think it was a red flag for her. I put her on Santa's lap, and she screamed. I took out my camera, and she screamed even louder.
"Maybe if she sits on my lap, next to you, she would be okay?" I said to Santa. Santa was up for it. I was a little embarassed- I didn't feel dressed properly for having my picture taken, but oh well. I asked a random man behind us to take the picture, and he did.
Perhaps he took the picture from a distance to disguise the terror in Zelma's eyes. My favorite part is the lady walking by. It's good he caught that, random man behind us in line. Thank you for that.
"Well, anyway, this is a moment in time," said Santa. I understood then that we were capturing the moment, good or bad. He was a very Zen Santa. I wonder what he was doing when he was twenty minutes late?