I probably shouldn’t let the cat out of the bag…but I think it’s been long enough
A long time ago, when my family and I lived in Vermont, we were fortunate to have a pretty large home, and two wonderful little girls. One was about 7 and the other about 5 years old. One year we decided to go all out and throw a great big Christmas party. There were plenty of families from mom and the girls ”Playdates’ and I played a lot of golf, so I invited mostly older husbands and wives. In all we had over 80 people in the house. The house was located at the top of the hill on our property. Nanny and Poppy lived at the other end of the property, which was lower and flatter, and was where their house was located.
A few days before the gala, I took my plow truck, a 1978 full size Bronco, to the bottom of the property, which we called the meadow. I proceeded to essentially turn the meadow into a parking lot This is where the magic began. On the day of the party, I had two high school boys stop our friends at the bottom of the quarter-mile driveway and have them park in the new parking lot. To transport everyone to the house at the top of the hill I hired a local farmer with a hay wagon and two Belgian work horses. Belgians are unbelievably strong. The boys had everyone wait in their warm cars until the wagon returned to the bottom from the previous run. When the families and couples got on the wagon, we had hot mulled cider and eggnog (spiked, of course) and lots of blankets. As the wagon worked its way around the corner of a stand of birch trees, the house came into full view and was lit up like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. While you probably won’t believe me, there was just a slight snow flurry coming down. In Vermont, that was not uncommon. My wagon driver would re-stock his cider and eggnog from the house and turn the Belgians around to go back and get the next group of friends.
It was truly story book like. As everyone got to the house we realized the two different groups of people did not necessarily know each other, so there were lots of new friends made that night. We had a finished basement, of course heated by a gigantic wood stove. We got two high school girls to organize all the kids down there to have games and crafts and their own fancy buffet table. We had it all catered by a well-known, fancy restaurant with whom we were friends of the owners, so their two sons were also having fun downstairs.
Upstairs, there were plenty of adult beverages and all types and wonderful food. The house was decorated to the nines, the large Count Rumford fireplace was blazing and the 18 foot Christmas tree was sparkling in the great room. Everyone was enjoying the festivities. One of my closer golf friends, Pat, was milling around meeting all the parents that didn’t play golf. He even went downstairs to see and meet the kids.
Early into the evening, Pat and his wife, Maureen, said their goodbyes to everyone, including the kids and went down to the meadow in the hay wagon. Nobody thought anything of it since this was the normal M.O. for Pat and Maureen. At the bottom of the driveway, instead of getting in their car, they went into Nanny’s house. Earlier that day, we had stored a Santa Clause suit, with boots, hat and beard in Nanny’s house. It was the long type of Santa coat; Maureen did an amazing job turning Pat into Ho- Ho- Ho…the REAL Santa Clause!
Santa’s bag was filled with generic boy and girl toys. Santa took his place on the wagon, holding onto the back of the driver’s seat and waving at the house as he came up the driveway. The side of the house facing the driveway was almost all glass, so when I could first see Santa come around the Birch trees , I went to the top of the basement stairs and yelled down, “Kids, I think Santa is coming up the driveway.” The noise from a real cattle stampede could not have been louder than the stampede of all those kids charging up the stairs. In seconds, we had about 30 kids with their faces pressed against some part of the wall of glass as Santa waved to each of them.
When Santa got to the front door, the entire party was mesmerized. Each kid looked around the room to see if Santa might be their dad, but all the dads were accounted for. We pulled a tall wing back chair over in front of that blazing fireplace so Santa could sit down….he then asked all the kids to sit on the floor in front of him. And they obeyed completely.
Santa then called out the first kid’s name, “Jessica, come up here on Santa’s lap”. How did he know her name? And then Santa mentioned to Jessica’s mom and dad that he would get her the presents she wanted if she did a better job of making her bed each morning. Then Santa provided a little ‘girl’ gift from his bag and called up Peter. Again, Santa knew everything about him and his mom and dad. Then it was Kimberly then Steven then David and so on. Parents in the background were sniffling, even out right sobbing because Santa knew something about everyone in the room.
You see, people knew Pat was a really good golfer, but what they didn’t know was that he had a photographic memory. His earlier milling around and visiting gave him sufficient time to learn everyone’s name and at least one little tidbit about each family.
It truly was amazing and wonderful evening. To this day, some 25 years later, each of my daughter’s will ask at some point during the holiday season…”so who was Santa at the party?” Of course, my answer is …”It was Santa !”
Now that I have shared this story with you, I hope they do not read it and I hope you don’t tell them.