Please Don’t Read This. Go Watch The Canadian Version of C-Span Which Is 50% More Boring Than The American One. That Sounds Like More Fun For A Good Time Than This Blog Post

I don’t know why people like reading these stories. They’re kind of akin to reading a boring person’s diary – “Ate a banana today. Was mushy. Should have made muffins instead.” But here it is, back by head-scratchingly popular demand, an account of our holidays.

Also, for all those who are like “Christmas? You’re writing about Christmas?” Please keep in mind, I have a newborn. All of you will be LUCKY to receive those cards I send out with the reindeer on the front wishing you a “Happy Holiday” in June.

One of the benefits of going to Winnipeg for two weeks last December was Santa. Our town has a Santa. Sort of. He meets once a week for two hours after dinner. And he’s…….. Well he’s….. Our Santa tries . . . .

I don’t know how to put this tactfully because invariably someone from town will read this and be all “Hey that’s my brother/cousin/son-in-law/Dad you’re talking about.” And that is not my intent. I know that the Santa is a volunteer, or more likely was voluntold, but at the same time. . .

Ok, something to remember is, I used to work for Disney. Meaning that I know all about the business we call show. I was not the greatest performer, but I stayed in character, I played the part and I took pride in my appearance and costume. There were countless other performers who were better than me; I watched them, I aspired to be like them and failed miserably. So really, I live in a glass house and am throwing stones. So I encourage you all to chuck boulders in my direction. Aim for the squishy bits- there are lots, did I mention I just had a baby?

Aside from the fact that our town’s Santa’s beard was fake, and that he didn’t have a moustache and didn’t bother to whiten his eyebrows. Aside from all of that, his hairy ankles stuck out of the costume. It wasn’t his fault, but I probably would have borrowed big boots to play the part. He also had trouble staying in character. That and last year, our town’s Santa was totally over eager about inviting our gorgeous au pair to sit on his lap. She declined in case you were wondering.

After that experience last year, I decided that Mini-Tex was going to have a proper meeting with Santa. In October before Christmas, I started Googling places in Winnipeg to meet Santa. Reading this, you’d think that I was one of those super organized mothers. I’m not. I routinely show up late and my son often wears his previous meal on his face in public. And then kisses people. Because he’s a toddler. For serious, someone give me a Parenting Razzie please.

Anyway, I discovered that you can prearrange a meeting with Santa in Winnipeg, meaning that you can skip the giant line. Amazing. Except I couldn’t make the site work. This meant that two days before we were supposed to leave for Winnipeg, when Tex asked me what time we were supposed to meet Santa, I said we didn’t have a time. Remember what I said about being disorganized? Cue my husband logging into the site, making the internet work and arranging a meeting. Only not a good time slot because there weren’t any left.  It was in the afternoon, thus Tex would be working.

Fast forward a week to when I am picking up our little boy from daycare. I explained in the car that he would walk up to meet Santa and the jolly old man would lift Mini-Tex onto his lap. Our almost three year old was good with this. Because you know he treats strangers like jungle gyms and climbs on them all the time. Not actually.

Then I told him that Santa would ask what he wanted for Christmas. Mini-Tex listened with all the focus and intent of someone trying to translate Sanskrit. I had to prompt my almost three year old again to get some semblance of answer about what he wanted for Christmas. Finally he said Mickey. Having been a performer doing meet and greets, I know that the key to a good interaction, is preparation and talking so that nuances of the character can come out.  I was hoping this discussion would lead to a memorable visit with St. Nick.

We get to the mall and Mini-Tex is still wearing yogurt and melted cheese from breakfast. I sent him to daycare like that because I enjoy sharing our son’s meals with the daycare’s dog. So I change him in the family washroom and then slooooooooooowly make our way towards Santa. We are desperately early for our appointment. Absurdly early. The kind of early that I know will result in a wait even though we have an appointment. So even with all of my dawdling, and demonstrating how twenty different snow globes work in the Carlton Cards, we still roll up to Santa’s workshop with twenty minutes to spare.

There isn’t a person in sight. I was shocked.

That’s a lie. There was a lone baby who was finishing up his visit with Santa. I couldn’t believe my luck- I didn’t even have time to take off my coat! So Mini-Tex bravely walks up to this giant bearded stranger and Santa hauls him onto his lap.

The interaction went better than last year. The only reason our son sat on Santa’s lap last year was because our au pair was perched on the chair next to him holding out her arms. So our toddler was all like “Ok, Janey, I guess. But only because I love you like crazy, normally I prefer not to sit next to strange men whose hairy ankles are erupting out of their pants.” And then for the picture Mini-Tex had this look of panic mixed with uncertainty. His face said “Janey, please remove me from this man’s lap. I am very uncomfortable and am 99% certain that this is unsafe. Like I’m not going to call Child and Family Services on you or anything but for Pete’s sake GET ME OUT OF HERE!” His eyes were actually screaming.

This year, Mini-Tex wanted to be on Santa’s lap. Ish. He liked the concept of Santa but was not loving the big man whose red velvet legs he was sitting on. Meeting Santa was important, he was sure about that, the smiling and enjoying the experience part? Well, that wasn’t going awesome. It took a lot of effort on both the photographer, Santa’s and my part to coax a smile out of my ambivalent boy.

In the end Santa gave him the largest candy cane that Mini-Tex had ever seen. (It was a normal sized candy cane but my toddler has only ever received the miniature ones, so this candy cane was extremely exciting.) So my three year old deemed Santa to be pretty neat. That said, unlike the PVC ig-aa-loooo across town, he has not asked to meet Santa again.

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Put Away Your Zagat Guide, This is the Country

I grew up in the throbbing metropolis which is known for having too many people in too small a space. This leads to phenomenon such as line ups, traffic jams and general rage. The last one may just be something I have when in the throbbing metropolis but still. The upshot of this is, I line up. I am awesome at lining up. In addition, I rock at showing up early to avoid the aforementioned line ups.

The country, or the middle of nowhere, where I currently reside has lots of space and very few people. Yet instinctively, I still stick to my learned habits of showing up early and expecting a mad house to events. It’s exactly like the “Field of Dreams” where they say “If you build it, they will come” only there’s nothing built and yet I’m still standing here waiting for masses of people.

For example Santa visits. In the throbbing metropolis Santa is available all day, every day the month of December. Parents cut off their right arms to pay to meet the jolly guy and then turn sideways for the photo to hide their missing limb while underpaid youth wish them “Merry Christmas”. Families wait upwards of an hour for this privilege. This is my normal. This is what I know.

So when I found out that Santa only met twice in December, for only two hours, at what we call our local mall, I expected a madhouse. I debated the merits of the baby carrier versus the stroller in the event that we were trampled in the rush to get to Santa. I ultimately concluded that the stroller could double as an ankle battering ram as well as protection for our son. I made my husband take out fifty dollars in bills because I knew these kinds of places only accepted cash. The four of us, my husband Tex, myself, our au pair and my son had an early supper so we could be there thirty minutes before Santa arrived to line up.

Being from the middle of nowhere, my husband Tex tried to reason with me, saying the five minutes was more than enough time. But he quickly lost that argument because I’m from the throbbing metropolis- we metropolites KNOW we are right. Always.

Supper took a while. As it does with a toddler. Also I insisted on bathing our son and dressing him in a specific outfit and that everyone freshen up. Because I am unreasonable seeker of memories and a tyrant. It’s one of my best qualities. All of this prepping and unnecessary eating meant that we were only twenty five minutes early instead of thirty.

“Go, Go GO!” I shouted to our au pair as our husband dropped the three of us at the entrance so we wouldn’t waste the thirty seconds it took to park. “We’re late!” I cried. I tucked Mini-Tex under my arm like a football and sprinted for the doors slamming through them. There was no time to wait for the slow automatic door to open. We were late.

I ran past the bank and the store that sells tissue masquerading as clothing to teenagers all the way to the giant Christmas tree at the center of the mall to see… nothing. There was no one there except for the sign saying the times when Santa would appear and an empty chair.

One minute later, my husband appeared. “Excellent” he said “There’s no one here, can we go grocery shopping now?”

“NO!” I cried, “The crowds will arrive any second- we have to get into line!”

The urgency in my voice and my statement would have made a lot more sense if there had been more than you know, fifteen people in the whole mall. And by fifteen people, I mean they were all scattered either working or shopping in the stores and clearly not there to see St. Nick.

“Oooooook” said my husband in the “I’m going to leave you to this” way that he does when I get crazy. “I’m going to do our shopping and come back in twenty minutes” Then he and our au pair took off and Mini-Tex and I wandered the vacant mall for twenty minutes. Mini-Tex mauled the Christmas decorations while I was on high alert, ready to start throwing elbows and fighting the throngs of people who would inevitably appear in an enormous group to meet Santa and take up the full two hours so Mini-Tex missed out.

Just so you know, we weren’t the first ones to meet Santa. Five minutes later, at the sound of the jingle bells, a family materialized out of nowhere and rushed Father Christmas. Exactly like I predicted. Then our son had a full five minutes with Santa. I’d like to say this is because he loved Santa so much but it was actually because Santa was smitten with our au pair and tried unsuccessfully to convince her to sit on his lap. Also the whole interaction was free. Well unless you count creepiness as a price in which case Janey our au pair paid dearly.

One would have thought I learned my lesson.

But no. Last week the circus rolled into town. I was unreasonably excited the whole week. Because nothing happens here. Well not nothing, but traveling acts are few and far between. I may have shaken my son awake that morning “The circus is coming!” in an effort to make him as excited as I was.

I had the day planned down to the minute. Every moment was used to ready ourselves for the circus. I bathed. Mini-Tex had a bath. I did laundry so he would have an adorable outfit to wear. If I had owned Spanx, I would have broken those out to ensure attractive and svelte looking family photos. I took Mini-Tex to the indoor playground as soon as it opened and ran him like a tiny greyhound so he’d nap before noon.

My husband got off work early that day. As he walked in the door he shouted “I forgot my phone”. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem except that THE TICKETS WERE ON HIS PHONE. Luckily, thanks to my advance planning, my son and I were ready. So we all hopped on our bikes and cycled back across town to retrieve Tex’s phone.

This makes it sound like a gigantic, athletic debacle, but across town to the hospital where Tex works is all of two kilometers away. However the upshot of this is that we were only twenty minutes early, rather than the thirty minutes that I had planned for.

Biking back from the hospital, I resisted the urge to shout “What’s our time?” at my husband at every stop sign. I remembered the Santa Claus meet and greet. I also calmed myself by picturing a warm, sunny beach. Of course I wouldn’t be lying on it, because even in my fantasies, I realize that such a place would result in my pale skinned death. But I also imagined a giant curtained cabana that I could peek out of at said scene. In between sitting in absolute darkness.

I managed to keep my calm long enough to stop to get Mini-Tex a snack. A hotdog, because he has an obsession with the book “The Pigeon Finds A Hot Dog”. Previous to this, Mini-Tex had never shown any interest in hotdogs and I had actually thrown out two packages because my husband and I don’t eat them either. However they seem like good toddler food so I bought them.

Walking into the tent, I expected bedlam, with parents frantically throwing diapers bags and coats over the bleachers to reserve seats. Instead we were met with strobe lights, the smell of popcorn and a whole lot of empty stands. There were about ten people there.

Even with all that empty space, I was still judicious about choosing where to sit. After all, the tent could fill up at any time. We biked through the back field, so it’s possible we missed a lineup of cars all paying thirty dollars to park. I resisted the urge to walk around the entire tent in order to determine the best vantage point. Instead, I picked a side and a row a little ways up, explaining that even if people filled the rows in front; we’d still have an excellent view.

Then we waited and Mini-Tex finished his hot dog. And requested another. So Tex ran out and returned within thirty seconds with a second hotdog. Apparently not even the concession stand was busy. A handful of people trickled in. Mini-Tex demolished a second hotdog. A clown came around and took photos with all the groups. A family trooped into our section and took up the back row. I tensed up expecting a swarm of people at the last minute.

Mini-Tex requested yet another hotdog. While peering around at the empty rows, I silently vowed to write “The Pigeon Eats Kale Salad”. Then I placed the tiny Skip Hop penguin back pack on the bleacher next to me, silently cursing myself for not bringing a large bag, because no doubt when the crush of people arrived, I’d be smushed up against a large, hairy man who bathed even less often than I did. I asked Tex the time. The show was supposed to start. I scanned the entrance, expecting a stampede of people. The show did not start. Apparently the circus also expected more people.

I silently and smugly congratulated my urban self for arriving early and getting the best spot before all these late comer rural people arrived. Three more people walked in and seated themselves across the ring.

Then the show started and I conceded that I may have to stop being quite so Type A if we’re going to live here for any length of time. Well you know unless we want to be the people who show up an hour before the party starts. But nobody likes them.