Yesterday morning I arrived quietly at the infant school in town, tip-toed into one of the staff rooms, and transformed myself into Father Christmas – complete with a sizeable cushion stuffed into my tunic to attain the proper “Santa” proportions. I have to hand it to the school – it’s a very good suit.
Once installed on a comfy chair next to the Christmas tree in the main hall, the lights were dimmed, candles were lit, and I pretended to fall asleep. What happened next will stay with me for the rest of my life – or at least until next Christmas, when no doubt I’ll be press-ganged into doing it again.
The children assembled almost silently in the hall – agog that Santa was asleep right there in front of them. The head teacher suggested they sing the first verse of Silent Night to gently wake Santa, and that was really my first clue at just how many children were now surrounding me.
I wonder if any other Santas were as nervous as me?
As the song neared the end of the first verse, I theatrically stretched, yawned, and blinked open my eyes – and was presented with a sea of silent smiling faces in the candle light. I think a good many of them were probably holding their breath.
Sacks of presents were shared with volunteers from each class, who came came forward and received them from my chief Elf (my middle daughter accompanied me, dressed from head to toe as an elf). Oh the memories – the choice of the volunteers, as so many children held their hands up, straining to raise their hand a little higher than their friends.
Almost before the meeting with Santa started, it was over, and the classes filed back to their classrooms, with children stealing smiles and waves as they passed. I held a gloved hand up, and smiled back at each one – trying carefully to make sure I didn’t miss anybody.
When the lights finally came up, I snuck back to my hiding place, transformed myself back into a software and web developer, and began the walk home through the rain.
I smiled all the way home.