A stranger in disguise grabs you, and tries to sit you on his knee.
In some countries, that person would be arrested. Instead, for us anyway, Santa Claus is welcomed, not incarcerated.
When my daughter’s inaugural Christmas arrived, we made the trip to Santa’s special magic village, conveniently located in a shopping mall. I can laugh now, but at the time, with a baby that couldn’t talk and barely walked, it was a disaster. What were we thinking? I suppose we wanted happy snaps to show Missy when she is older; “look darling, here you are sitting on Santa’s knee.” Alas, now we will be saying to her; “look darling here you are in mummy’s arms screaming, pointing at the bad man with the fake beard trying to take you away”.
What makes it totally funny for me now, is that Santa, my wife, and I – are all smiling into the camera as if this was a perfect family moment. Just Missy realizes the ruse and is not having a bar of it.
Christmas for children who are too young to know about the mechanics of Santa, reindeers, and presents is a weird event. It is set it up in a manner suggesting they know all about it; they are put into a red outfit with an elf hat, and we pile gifts around them – all the while, madly snapping merry pictures for the future. “Gee Missy, look at you then,” we will say in years to come to our moody teenager; “you use to love Christmas”. We will be in every picture, smiling, and she will be happy too, playing with the box of tissues next to her new toys.
Why do people feel compelled to smile when cameras are around? We have a favorite picture from the day Missy was born, taken by a nurse. As my wife entered hour 21 of her 23-hour labour, there I was, right there next to her – with a huge smile on my face as I look into the camera. She, meanwhile, looks exhausted and is bent over in pain. I don’t know, when I saw the camera, I just assumed I had to smile.
It’s conditioning. Now even Missy poses for pictures, sometimes stopping what she is doing and giving a wave or a smile. We all do it.
The family holiday to wherever-land looked magnificent from the pictures we send to friends and family. But should it be shown it for what it actually was? The plane was late, and Missy screamed the whole way. At the resort, the room was dirty, and the beds were hard. Missy got a rash, I got sunburnt, and the wife got gastro from the lousy food – but there we all are, smiling in every picture. Best holiday ever.
Time can heal all wounds and the loathing at the time, seems to blur with the passage of it. Maybe that’s a good thing. Who wants to look back at angry pictures of a mosquito infested fishing holiday? I’d rather remember it as the family gathered cheerfully around a plate of freshly caught, and baked, trout – trying not to scratch.
Regardless of the appropriateness of it, I’m smiling every time I see a camera pointed my way, and my daughter – as long as it’s not that scary bearded fellow – will too.