The first person who came up to me was a little blonde girl of about four. She looked me squarely in the eye, climbed up into my lap, turned around so she was facing out and said, “a Barbie doll.”
“And what’s your name?”
“Lori.” She turned her head and smiled.
“Hi, Lori. Would you like a candy cane?”
“Yes,” she said.
I indicated the bowl of candy canes on a table to my right and my assistant took one out and handed it to her.
“Thank you,” Lori said. She got down, walked to her mother, who was standing four feet from us, held out the hand not holding the candy cane and then led her mother out the door.
Next was another four-year-old blond girl who refused to come into the room. She stood in the doorway in the hall, with the line of kids and parents directly behind her, and just would not move forward. Her mother, a slender woman fashionably dressed, stepped into the room.
“Come on, Adrianna.”
Adrianna looked blankly at her mother. Her mother held out her hand and took Adrianna by the wrist and pulled, but Adrianna pulled back. It was a tug–of–war. Mother lost.
“Come see Santa,” she said. “Tell him what you want.”
Adrianna, as near as I could tell, had not even looked across the room at me sitting in the chair. She continued to look at her mother. Now she pulled harder backwards and mother moved with the first pull, then got her balance and pulled Adrianna back into the room, or tried. Adrianna, in response, put one leg back and one forward, and began to tow her mother out of the room.
“Adrianna?” mother said.
But Adrianna was having none of it. And so, they left.
The third four-year-old, a boy, strode over purposefully, climbed up into my lap, and leaned in to whisper in my ear. I couldn’t hear him.
He didn’t whisper louder, but he said it slower.
“A bat, a ball, a glove and a baseball cap,” he said.
“Done,” said I. “It’s on the list.”
These kids, all of them, were so light and so cute. I gave this one a little hug. He hugged me back. Then he climbed down.
“Give him a candy cane,” I said to the assistant.
The next group was two kids with both a mother and a father. Both kids were girls, about a year apart. Five and four, I guessed. Mother brought them up. The father, with the camera, stood behind them. The four-year-old looked at me, trying to size me up, then looked at her mother.
“Go ahead,” mother said.
So then she climbed up into my lap. But she wouldn’t look at me. She couldn’t. One look and she’d turn to stone. She’d be blinded for life.
“Chicken,” she said to the ground.
“Chicken?” I said.
“Chicken,” she repeated.
I looked at mother. “Fried or broiled?” I asked.
“She wants some other things too,” mother said.
“Ice skates,” she said.
“Ice skates it is, and chicken.”
The girl climbed down, but then her older sister would not climb up. When urged, she hid behind her mother.
“Let me get a picture,” father said, standing still further behind them. “Okay, everybody, go to Santa Claus.”
They walked toward me, but the older girl stayed hidden behind her mother. Then she peered out.
“Sit on his lap,” father said. But she wouldn’t. “Okay, then, would you stand next to Santa?” This she would do. It was the older girl, mother, me and the younger girl on my knee. “Smile,” father said.
“Everybody gets a candy cane,” I said. “Ho, ho, ho.”
Next was a six-year-old boy with five or six adults trooping in behind him. All the adults had cameras. The six-year-old looked at me warily.
“Go tell him what you want, Nathan,” one of the adults said. I held out my arms. Nathan decided. He stepped forward into my arms and I hoisted him up onto my knee.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“My name is, uh,” it’s so HARD not to say your real name, you have to think this through, “Santa Claus.”
Now the adults were arrayed in a semicircle in front of me, shooting flash picture after flash picture. A celebrity moment for the various households.
“Have you been a good boy?” I asked.
I got an odd reaction. He raised an eyebrow. “Certainly,” he said. “And I want an iPhone for Christmas.”
“That’s a tall order,” I said. “I’ll see what I can do.” I looked at the parents for advice. I got nods in return.
“Have a candy cane,” I said. “Freshly made at the North Pole.” Nathan looked at me. “And wrapped in plastic up there,” I said. He took two.
And the kids kept coming. I think in total there were about 60 kids. It took about a half hour to get them all, one at a time, into the wood-paneled living room of the Hedges Inn there on Main Street, East Hampton and then out the back door. I wrote down nothing. I committed it all to memory. Everybody got candy canes.
It is amazing to me just how different every single kid was from every other. There were know-it-all kids. There were scared kids. There were astounded kids—it’s him, he’s real. And there were two kids who simply ran at me and leaped into my arms with a big full frontal hug.
It’s HIM, it’s HIM!!
An hour earlier, at the end of a line of parade marchers, I had climbed high up into my sleigh with Mrs. Claus and set off down Main Street, heading from the Presbyterian Church to the Town Windmill and movie theater and then up Newtown Lane to the railroad station. Mrs. Claus and I waved to the hundreds of people lining the street on both sides. I smiled and said, “Ho, ho, ho.” Bing Crosby was singing, “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” and in front of us, from front to back, were, in order, these floats and displays:
Leading the way were the Color Guard of the U. S. Coast Guard, then the Mayor and the Town Crier, then the characters Peaches and the Donkey, the float from the Star of the East Lodge 843, the marchers from Dancehampton, the East Hampton Cub Scout Pack 426 float, the East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue lifeguards, the East Hampton Classic Boat Society, Girl Scouts Unit 63, the Lion’s Club (with the big happy lion), Midget Motor Sports Cars, the Schenck Fuel Services Truck, the Springs School Marching Band, eight farm tractors in formation, the YMCA East Hampton Rec Center float, and then us, with eight people in reindeer suits that included cute little wiggly tails towing us along.
Merry Christmas, everybody. From the Huntting Inn, the Misses and I are heading back now to the North Pole to fulfill some of these orders.