SANTA'S JOURNAL forum: I Am Santa

 
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Imagedgal
Mar 12, 2010 10:41 AM CST
Name: Don Galaway
Baytown, Texas (Zone 9a)
As a professional Santa, I had the presence of mind to keep a journal during my first season as the big guy in the red suit and I would like to share it with you. As time permits, I will be including installments in this thread. I hope you enjoy it.

Thumbnail by dgal

Santa Don

Bringing joy to the world, one smile at a time. http://www.santa2u.net
Imagedgal
Mar 12, 2010 10:48 AM CST
Name: Don Galaway
Baytown, Texas (Zone 9a)
I Am Santa

by Santa Don Galaway


Dedication

First, I want to recognize my daughter, Kristen who is responsible for creating this monster. I’ll explain later. I think she had second thoughts during the course of the year when I was consumed with learning everything I could about being Santa. However, I think that once she saw me in action, she decided that I was a pretty good Santa. I hope she is as proud of me as I am of her.


Secondly, I want to mention my Mrs. Claus, Sarah. She has had to endure my obsession first hand. I dragged her to our Santa gatherings and ran her crazy with my talking about becoming Santa. But, being the trooper she is, she stuck it out with me. Now, if only I could convince her to become Mrs. Claus in costume…..


This is also dedicated to our son, Phillip. We lost Phillip December 18th, 2004. He never got to see me as Santa, as the thought never occurred to me to become Santa until December of 2007. I think he would have thought it was a great idea and he would have been proud of his old dad. I miss you Son. The day never goes by that I don’t think of you.
Santa Don

Bringing joy to the world, one smile at a time. http://www.santa2u.net
ImageBoopaints
Mar 12, 2010 2:58 PM CST
Name: Becky Capps
Phoenix, AZ 85022
finding joy one day at a time!
Thank you Don for this journal of your life as Santa. I created a brand new forum for it!

Imagedgal
Mar 20, 2010 8:29 PM CST
Name: Don Galaway
Baytown, Texas (Zone 9a)
This book is about my first year as Santa Claus. It has been such a wonderful experience I just had to share it with anyone who would take the time to read it. It is my hope that you will be as blessed by reading it as I was in living it and writing it.

It all began just before Christmas of 2007. My daughter, a teacher’s aide in a special needs kindergarten class called me one evening, saying that Santa had come to their classroom and telling me how excited the kids were. Then, without realizing it at the time, she set in motion a chain of events that has changed my life dramatically and hopefully, the lives of many others. She said, “Dad, as much as you love kids, why aren’t you a Santa?”

You see, I do love kids. I have been involved with kids in one way or another most of my adult life, most of which was connected with the youth groups in our church. Maybe it is because I never really grew up myself, but I seem to have a connection with children, especially the younger ones. Now teens…. well, I get along with them, but not like I do with the younger ones.

When my daughter asked me that question, I thought, “Why am I not a Santa?” So, I pulled up the internet and began looking into being a Santa.

One of the first things I did was to start growing my beard on January 1, 2008. My beard is naturally salt and pepper, but my hair is medium brown except for the gray around the temples. I figured I would have to bleach it as the Christmas season got closer. Many professional Santas do bleach their hair and beard.

On January 25, 2008, I joined a group called, “The Amalgamated Order Of Real Bearded Santas”. It is an organization dedicated to Santas helping Santas. Almost immediately, I realized that the organization was embroiled in an internal power struggle and a large number of members had either canceled their membership or been removed. After sticking it out for a few months, I canceled my membership as well.

This was really unfortunate because the organization had once been a great one, even being labeled by the Boston Herald as "The Nation's Premier Fraternity of A-List Santas". Now, it is just a dim shadow of its former self.

I guess things happen for a reason though, because as more and more Santas withdrew from AORBS, several new fraternal organizations began to form. I joined a group known as ClausNet, an internet based group with a really nice web site and discussion forum. I have learned much from the men and women there and have shared some of my limited knowledge, as well. I have also formed several wonderful and life long friendships.

Since I live in a town not far from Houston, I met several other Santas who live in the vicinity. I became acquainted with one Santa in particular, Santa Dan Harriman and his Mrs. Claus from Orange, Texas. They travel occasionally from Orange to San Antonio, where one of their children lives, so we often meet at Denny’s, out on the interstate for coffee and a short visit as they are passing through. It’s funny, but Fran’s maiden name is Clause. Isn’t it ironic that the man she married would end up as Santa Claus?

In one of our conversations, we decided that it would be nice to form a local Santa group and have an occasional get-together. Santa Dan set up a Yahoo group called, “SoSET, or Santas of South East Texas”. We have had several enjoyable gatherings we loving refer to as eatin meetins. One memorable eatin meetin was held at Joe’s Crab Shack in Kemah, Texas. There, they have a very nice boardwalk with all kinds of shops and a number of great seafood restaurants. There is also a miniature train that runs around the facility. Well, of course all of the Santas and our Mrs. Claus took a ride on the train. We created quite a stir with many photo ops. It was a blast!

At just about the same time as Santa Dan and I were forming the SoSET group, a couple of other Santas were doing the same thing, calling their group, “Lone Star Santas”. It wasn’t long before we realized what was going on, and we joined forces. Since the term, “Lone Star Santas” has a much broader connotation, we adopted that name for our group.

We are a close knit group, but loosely organized. Mostly, we just get together about once a quarter, break bread together and share our knowledge and experiences with each other. At the time of this writing, we are planning a gathering at the Blue Bell Creamery in Brenham, Texas. I can just visualize a dozen or more Santas descending upon the Blue Bell Creamery. In case you are not from Texas, you may not understand that Blue Bell is just about the best ice cream in the world.

Another activity some of us are involved in is a very worthwhile cause with Houston Hospice. They have a wonderful program and facility. One facet of their organization is called the Butterfly Program which works with hospice children and their families. My first assignment was with a twelve year old girl named Bianca. I went to their home and we had a wonderful visit. Bianca has a brain tumor but she was a delight. I took her some coloring sheets and left her a book entitled, The Night Before Christmas. It is one way we have to give something back to some very deserving children and their families.

For Santas who want to be the best Santa they can possibly be, there are actually schools for us. One of the best and certainly the oldest is the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School established in 1937 after Mr. Howard noticed some poor excuses for Santa at several locations. As a Santa himself, Mr. Howard set about to establish a school to train Santas to uphold the traditions and to preserve the history of Santa Claus.

Victor Nevada’s Santa School, located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada is another top flight school for Santas.

One of the most attended Santa schools is Santa Claus University, founded and taught by Santa Tim Connaghan. This is due to his willingness to conduct schools all over the U.S. He travels extensively during the summer months, conducting schools.

Santa Tim’s school is the only one that I, personally have had opportunity to attend, and it was extremely helpful to this fledgling Santa. Santa Tim covers everything from the history of Santa Claus, to hair and beard care, to how to start your own Santa business, to Santa liability issues to be aware of. It is two intense days of Santa training.

Each of these (and other) schools is unique in their own right and have much to offer to the Santa who has a desire to be the best Santa he can possibly be.
Santa Don

Bringing joy to the world, one smile at a time. http://www.santa2u.net
ImageBoopaints
Mar 23, 2010 5:20 PM CST
Name: Becky Capps
Phoenix, AZ 85022
finding joy one day at a time!
You truly are bringing "joy to the world, one smile at a time". Thank you for this remarkable story!
What a gift you are!
Imagedgal
Mar 25, 2010 11:41 PM CST
Name: Don Galaway
Baytown, Texas (Zone 9a)
Another milestone was the day I purchased my first Santa Suit. It is an amazing feeling to don that bright red suit with the fur trim. It is as if I truly become Santa.

Next came the four inch wide belt and decorative buckle and a new pair of black boots. I took the boots to a local shoe shop and had a zipper installed on the sides and fur sewn around the boot tops. I also purchased some large sleigh bells, strung them together and attached them to my boots as well. Now, every step I take announces to the world that Santa is there.

Add to the list Santa’s toy bag and a Cool Vest (a vest worn under the coat with frozen gel pack inserts) and my wardrobe is complete. I never refer to my suit as a costume. It is my Santa suit.

Since we live in the Houston area where the summers are sweltering, I also have wardrobe of summer attire, mainly consisting of shorts, red Hawaiian shirt, red and green striped knee socks and a pair of red Crocs. Of course, I have several red Polo style shirts for everyday wear as well as a few pairs of suspenders. I even bought a red dress shirt and a couple of Christmas ties to wear to church.

For a Santa who wants to work as a independent rather than for a photo company or mall, he needs a way to market himself. One method is to set up a web site. I had a little web experience from setting up a site for a small company I used to own, so I set one up for my Santa activities. It is a simple one, with just the basics right now, but I hope to upgrade it soon. Some Santas have elaborate web sites with music playing, videos and the whole thing. Oh well, someday. OK, if you must know, the url is http://www.santa2u.net.

I needed some photos for my web site, so I approached one of the local photography studios in town and worked a deal where she would do a portfolio for me and in return, I would sit for her one day in December. She took some great photos and some of them are on my web site now. However, at the time of the shoot, my beard was still fairly short and dark. We did some shots in my new Santa suit and also some in my “summer uniform”. Her little boy was in the studio that day, so we used him as a prop. He is a cute kid, and added a lot to the shots.

I am also beginning to collect Santa knick-knacks. I have several snow globes and other items. My Mrs. Claus recently gave me one which immediately became one of my favorites. It is a small statue of Santa with a child sitting on his lap, wish list in hand, looking lovingly into Santa’s eyes. I think I love it so much because I have been the recipient of that same look many times already in my short career as Santa.

Our preacher, Bobby Burris and his lovely wife, Diana gave me a Christmas present that I will treasure forever. Diana, has had a snow globe for years with Santa inside the globe, drinking a Coca Cola and a little toy train running around the base just below the globe. When you wind it up, it plays music and the little train goes around the globe.

That snow globe meant a lot to Diana, but she wanted me to have it. Thanks, Diana. You are a sweetheart and I will never forget your thoughtfulness and generosity.

I am planning to purchase a floor-to-ceiling book case to display my knick knacks and ever expanding library of Christmas books including, The Night Before Christmas, Polar Express and many others. The book case will go in my Santa Room, a spare bedroom I have taken possession of. That is where I dress and primp. I also have my computer there, so it is also an office of sorts. Then, of course, I also have my Santa memorabilia there. It is a fairly small room and is already getting somewhat crowded.

In October, I went to a hair dresser and had my beard and hair bleached. I have to say that it was a painful experience. I have a new found respect for ladies who have their hair bleached. The girl who does my hair took my picture after my first visit. She said she was going to put it up at her station so she could tell everyone that she was Santa’s hair dresser.

I immediately began to be recognized as Santa everywhere I went. One memorable encounter took place as my wife, Sarah and I sat in the Cracker Barrel restaurant, waiting for our food to arrive. A little girl and her mother sat close by. I noticed that she was watching me very closely.

Soon, the little girl got up and walked up to me and said, “Who are you?”, to which I replied, “Well, who do you think I am?” “Santa” she said. So I pulled her onto my knee and we had a nice little chat. As they were leaving, her mother came over and thanked me. When I asked our waitress for the check, she told me that the lady had taken care of it.

Another encounter I had was with a little girl of about eight years old. She wanted to believe in Santa, but her friends were telling her that Santa isn’t real. Well, before it was over, she was telling me what she wanted for Christmas and asking what my favorite cookie is and if I liked milk with my cookies. I think we got at least one more year of believing for her.

Those things happen on a regular basis now and I love it. I am Santa! I now carry some cards with my picture on it saying, “I met Santa”. I need to get some more business card blanks.
Santa Don

Bringing joy to the world, one smile at a time. http://www.santa2u.net
ImageBoopaints
Mar 28, 2010 9:15 PM CST
Name: Becky Capps
Phoenix, AZ 85022
finding joy one day at a time!
Santa Don,

As I read your journal, I am excited to see the response we will get as people begin strolling into the I LOVE Christmas cubit. Won't they be surprised we have our own resident Santa!

I want to write an article about you but think I will save it for a more timely season. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. Please feel free to link your web site to our cubit and I will link our cubit to your web site!

Becky
ImageBoopaints
Dec 22, 2010 12:03 PM CST
Name: Becky Capps
Phoenix, AZ 85022
finding joy one day at a time!
Sadly with a busier crazy year and fall I did not promote I LOVE Christmas enough. I am looking for a co-owner though! Big Grin
ImageTwinLakesChef
Dec 23, 2010 6:29 AM CST
Name: Arlene Marshall
Twin Lakes, IA & Orange, CA
Zone 4B
What a delightful read! Thank you Don & Becky!
Yum Yum Divas ~ ~ "Most recipes are not invention . . . but evolutions"
ImageBoopaints
Dec 23, 2010 11:20 AM CST
Name: Becky Capps
Phoenix, AZ 85022
finding joy one day at a time!
THANK YOU Arlene for posting! Group hug
ImageTwinLakesChef
Dec 23, 2010 7:03 PM CST
Name: Arlene Marshall
Twin Lakes, IA & Orange, CA
Zone 4B
How could I not? It has never crossed my mind that being Santa is so gratifying.
Yum Yum Divas ~ ~ "Most recipes are not invention . . . but evolutions"
Imagedgal
Dec 23, 2010 8:29 PM CST
Name: Don Galaway
Baytown, Texas (Zone 9a)
The following are journal entries I began to keep when I actually started my Santa activities.

11/3/2008 – Today was my first day as a professional Santa and I loved it! I am doing a two week stint at The Picture People studios. Didn’t have too many customers, so I spent a lot of time standing at the door, waving at passersby. I got a million smiles and waves in return.

We did have several customers that day, one of which was an infant. One of the neatest feelings is to be a baby’s first Santa. Now, that’s special. What a super day. I’m tired but very happy.

11/5/2008 – Ho Ho Ho, at age 62 I've finally found my calling. I have now completed my first week as a true professional Santa and I love it! When I am not sitting for photos I am waving to passersby, old and young alike and joking with them about being good for Santa. It is a great feeling to see a smile from someone who a moment earlier looked as if they had the weight of the world on their shoulders.

One shoot was with a beautiful young lady from Israel. She had only been in the US for about two weeks. She told me she had always heard about Santa Claus but had never seen him in person. She was as excited as any of the younger children have been. I got a copy of one of the shots where she was kissing me on the cheek and I was looking wide eyed into the camera with my mouth in the shape of a big "Oh", Did I mention she was beautiful?


11/10/2008 – I worked at the Picture People studio today. It was a busy day. A memorable thing happened today, which just happens to be the day before Veteran’s Day. As I was standing in the doorway of the studio, which is in a mall, two young servicemen passed by and I thanked them for their service. They politely acknowledged my thanks. Then much to my surprise, one of them turned and said, “Thank you for your service”. How cool is that?

11/11/2008 – My final day at the Memorial City mall studio, and another great day. As I was walking out after my day ended, I was asked by several folks if they could take a picture with me, even though I only had on the red velvet pants, Santa boots and a red tee shirt.

I stopped in the drive-through for a Subway sandwich and had another delightful encounter there. The girl at the window got all excited when she saw me and immediately produced a camera and (with my permission) took my picture while I was sitting there in my truck. When I got home, what did I find in my bag but two chocolate chip cookies that I hadn’t ordered or paid for!

11/13/2008 – I had a meeting today with the photo crew who will be working on the Santa set at San Jacinto mall where, except for a couple of days I already had booked, I will be from now until Christmas eve. I toured the set and tried out my Santa chair. It was quite comfortable. The set manager gave me a run down of the operation and answered a few questions I had.

Just two days until Saturday when I make my grand entrance, flying in on a helicopter. Then on to a Disney set for greeting the children. After a few minutes with the children, it’s on to the Santa set where we will begin our photo sessions.

11/14/2008 – Tomorrow is the big day. I went in for a touch-up on my hair. As I said earlier, I have to bleach it, so had to get the roots taken care of. Then I went and tried on the new Santa suit that the photo company furnished. It is a Coca Cola style suit with big gold buttons down the front. Very nice.

My cell phone was acting up, so I went to the phone store to buy another one. As I sat there, a lady came in with two little girls in tow. They must have been about five and six years old. I noticed the older one eyeing me, so I waved to her. Her face lit up and she waved back. She said something to her little sister and immediately, here she came, arms outstretched. After having a little chat with them, I gave each of them one of my, “I met Santa” cards.

Their mom called me on the phone that evening to thank me for talking to her little girls.
She got my phone number from the web site listed on the cards. She told me that they went to Target after leaving the phone store and the girls were showing everyone their cards from Santa. Mom assured me that they would be there for the fly-in tomorrow.

11/15/2008 – It is 8:35 in the morning of the big day. I have been up since 5:30 and I don’t even have to be at the mall until noon. Can you tell I’m excited? My suitcase is packed with my boots, belt, cool vest, suspenders, Santa bag and toiletry items; oh yeah, a few snacks too. Well, it’s off to the showers and get dressed. A cold front blew in last night and it is pretty windy. I hope it’s not too windy for the helicopter to fly. More later……

Santa has landed. It was a total blast! We flew in and there were several hundred children there to greet us. From there, we proceeded to the Disney set where I greeted the children and led them in a rousing rendition of Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Then it was on the Santa set where we began our photo session. It was a long day and I was totally exhausted at the end. I think a lot of it was due to first day jitters though.

11/16/2008 – Day two was great as well. After a visit with one little girl, she and her mom returned a little later. They had gone to a cookie shop and she told her mom that she wanted to get a cookie for Santa. So, I had a wonderful chocolate chip cookie.

I also had a visit with three little girls who had recently lost everything in a house fire. I felt so sorry for them. I said that at least everyone was ok, and I was happy for that. I just wanted to take them home with me and try to make up for their loss somehow.

11/17/2008 – I just completed my first “long” day, from 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Of course, there were a couple of breaks in there, but Lord, have mercy, it was long. Might be because it was a pretty slow day with a lot of dead time. I’m sure that as Christmas gets closer things will pick up. Still having a ball though.

Two weeks prior to the beginning of my Santa duties, I had knee surgery. My dressing room which doubles as a break room is at the other end of the mall which makes for a long walk and is causing my knee some difficulty. A good friend of mine, Lloyd McVay has an electric scooter that his wife had used before her death. He readily agreed to allow me to borrow it while I was working at the mall. It turned out to be a life saver. I got a lot of laughs from folks as I motored down the mall shouting, “Now Dasher, now Dancer, Now Prancer and Vixen. On Comet, on Cupid, on Donder and Blitzen.”


Or, people would ask, “Hey Santa, Where’s your reindeer?” I would reply, “They’re at the North Pole. It’s hunting season down here, and you know these rednecks around here.” That always got a laugh too. I had to use discretion whenever I used that line, however. I didn’t want any small children hearing me say that for fear they might worry about my reindeer getting shot at.

11/18/2008 – One of the memorable things that has happened so far happened today. I am not in any way, a racist. Santa is color blind, but I will identify the ethnicity of an individual. A black couple walked by today and as usual, I waved to them as I do to everyone. They both smiled and waved back. I saw the man say something to his wife and then he turned back toward us. He came over and asked to have his picture taken with me. Now, I said he was black, but did I mention that he was big? Not obese; I’m talking big, as in a pro football lineman big. Anyway, we sat together on my chair and I put an arm around him and we took the picture. I could just tell that there was something different about this man and I took an immediate liking to him. He told me that he wanted to take the picture to send to his daughter. I think there was a story behind it, but I could tell that he was somewhat emotional. As they were about to leave, his wife made the comment that he was just a big kid at heart. I told him, “Well, from one big kid to another, I love you, brother.” He got teary eyed and had to walk away. I don’t know why, but what I do know is that someone was touched by a simple photo taken with Santa.

I guess there must have been something in the air today, because another big, muscular fellow came by for a photo with Santa, only this one was a white guy. I think he was military by the manner in which he carried himself. He just said he wanted to send the photo in some Christmas cards. I had to wonder if it was going to family back home. I wish now that I would have asked him, but I didn’t.

11/22/2008 – This is the first installment in several days. That’s because of the looooong mall hours. I dearly love the work, but the hours are killing me. I don’t know for sure at this point whether I will take a mall job again. If I had to say right now, I would say, “never again”.

One perk I get from the photo company is that I can get a print of any of the photos I want. All I have to do is tell them I want a print of a particular shot. Some of those kids absolutely melt my heart and those are the main ones I get, along with some out of the ordinary shots. Case in point: A lady brought a little boy in for a picture. She was very pregnant, so I suggested baby’s very, very first picture with Santa. She loved it idea, so we got a profile shot of her with me cradling her tummy. It was too cute and she loved it. My scrapbook is growing substantially.

I wore out my first set of D’Lites and had to order another set. (By way of explanation, D’Lites are fake thumbs that fit over your own thumbs. There is a led light in the end which lights up when you press your finger against it.) The kids really love the tricks I do with them. I get the red ones and tell them that Rudolph gave me some magic to show them. They really go bananas over them. I have even convinced a few non-believers that Santa lives.

I have worked very hard all year long learning how to be a good Santa and I think it is paying off. I get many great compliments from parents and onlookers alike. A lady came by to the set tonight and said that she used to be a professional clown. Then she said, “Santa, you rock!” What a compliment!

Wow! The days are getting busier and busier. Oh well, it will all be over soon enough and then I will probably be sad to see it ended. Yesterday was Thanksgiving, so I got a little break in the routine. Now it’s a headlong rush to Christmas.

I am about to leave the house for my day on “the throne”. This being the day after Thanksgiving and the first traditional shopping day, I expect we will be super busy today.

11/28/2008 The Friday after Thanksgiving was, as anticipated a very busy day on the Santa set. It helped the time pass by rapidly but also tired me out. I am tired, but happy.

Santa Dan Harriman and his wife, Fran came by the set today to lend a little moral support. As I pointed out in an earlier chapter, they are dear friends of mine and it did indeed lift my spirits. I had a photo made of Santa Dan and me, sitting together on my Santa chair and I will treasure it. Dan is working weekends in a mall in Beaumont, Texas.

11/29/2008 What a busy day today. I had some great visits however. One little girl I spoke with seemed a little down. When I asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she said she would like a cell phone. My stock reply is to ask if she has talked to her parents abut a cell phone because even if I bring her one, they have to get service for it with their local phone company. She said she had already asked and they said no. I asked her how old she was and she said she was ten years old. I told her that her parents loved her and just wanted to protect her, so she shouldn’t be upset with them about it.
Santa Don

Bringing joy to the world, one smile at a time. http://www.santa2u.net
Imagedgal
Dec 23, 2010 8:29 PM CST
Name: Don Galaway
Baytown, Texas (Zone 9a)
Then she said that she would like a bell for Christmas. When I asked her what kind of bell, she said like the Polar Express bell. Well, it just so happens that I try to keep a few bells at hand for special circumstances, so I told her I would do one better than that, that I would give her one right now. When I put it in her hand, she brightened up. She shook it and I asked her if she heard it. She did.

I had read where one Santa keeps some bells for when a child asks for a lost loved one to be returned. He gives them a bell and tells them that if they get lonesome for that person, just ring the bell and they will hear it. I haven’t had that experience yet, but the bell came in handy anyway.

Oh, I was given another cookie by a little girl today. I am fortunate to have a Cookie Factory just down the way in the mall, and get quite a few from children after I have had a visit with them.

Probably the neatest thing to happen today was when a young lady and her children from out of town visited me. I happen to know the young lady very well, but her children didn’t know that. They were surprised when I called her by name and mentioned her husband who wasn’t even there. I talked about little Douglas (her husband) and how he loved the Hot Wheels I brought him when he was a little boy. Then we started talking about some relatives of theirs who live in another town. One of the children asked me if I knew his cousin, Brady. “Yes”, I said. “and he is quite a steer roper too”. Those children will likely be believers for a long time to come after that visit. It was a total blast! As an addendum, I was told that Reece, Doug and Tisha’s little boy, spoke with his cousin on the phone that night and told him that Santa knows him too.
12/02/2008 Two little boys came to the set this evening with five Chips Ahoy cookies in a baggie for me. One of the little guys also held out his hand to me with four pennies. This tough old codger could hardly contain his emotions. I kindly refused the pennies, telling him to buy some bubble gum, not that four cents will buy a piece of gum any more. I did accept the cookies, however. If anyone were to suggest to me that there is no hope for this old world, I would kindly but firmly disagree. Yes, there is a lot of greed in this old world, but there is also a lot of loving, sharing and giving.

12/03/2008 Funny story: A family was walking by the set tonight and their little four or five year old girl was checking me out so intently that she didn’t see a barrier standard and ran right into it. Fortunately only her pride was hurt. The family went on their way laughing hysterically. Of course, I wasn’t laughing at all. Er, uh, well not much anyway. Well, ok, I was almost rolling on the floor.

Sad story: A young couple was walking by, pushing a stroller. It was late and very little activity, so I waved to them and they turned into the set. In the stroller was a beautiful little 17 month old girl who had Cerebral Palsy. She had very little motor control. I felt so hopeless because I wanted to make it alright, but, of course I couldn’t. I hurt for that young couple, and for the difficulties they too will face. Once again, I thanked God for my healthy grandchildren.

12/04/2008 What a day! It began with six or seven mentally challenged adults coming for a visit with Santa. I had a short visit with each of them and then we had a photo taken. I am always a little nervous about this sort of thing because I want to treat them with dignity and respect, but most of them are merely children in adult bodies. They all seemed to really enjoy their visit with Santa though.

A couple came in with a little three year old girl tonight. I could see that she was apprehensive as are many children in that age group. No one else was in line, so I got up and went over and began talking to her. I finally got her to give me a high five, and then a little hug. I got her to come to me and we walked over and looked at the tree ornaments. Then, I went to my chair and sat down and we took a great photo. Afterwards, her dad came over to me and said, “Forty years, and I have never seen a Santa get up and go over to a child and try to set them at ease. Thank you.”

I was shocked. I thought that is what any good Santa would do. Admittedly, that little girl was in the minority. Most children that age simply won’t have anything to do with Santa. Some parents will just plop them in Santa’s lap and want a photo with them screaming. That always makes me a little sad because I am there for the children, not the parents and I don’t like them to be so afraid of Santa.

When I asked one little seven year old girl if she had been good (a standard Santa question), she got a sad look on her face and said that she wasn’t a good girl. I immediately got the idea that she might be a victim of a form of verbal abuse where a parent continually puts down a child and tells them they are bad.

I slid her off of my knee and stood her directly in front of me, took her shoulders in both hands and looked her square in the eyes and said, “Santa knows when you have been bad or good, and you are a good girl. Don’t you ever let anyone tell you that you are bad, because you’re not”. Then, I gave her a big, tight hug.

I can’t begin to imagine how some parent could destroy a child’s self worth by telling them they are bad. Granted, there could be some sort of behavior problem, but if that is the case, it is very likely the fault of the parenting skills and not the child.

While I am on the subject of parents, I’ll mention another thing that bothers me. More than once, I have seen a mom or dad walking along the mall with a small one in tow, practically dragging them because the little one, with their short little legs, can’t keep up. Parents, please be more considerate of your children. They are our most prized possessions and they deserve better.

However, on the flip side, I have seen children who have trouble thinking of something they want for Christmas because they already have everything. I don’t know if that is some form of abuse, but it certainly does nothing for their value system when they are handed everything on the proverbial silver platter. Love isn’t measured by how much “stuff” we can give our children, rather by the spiritual and moral values we instill in them.

12/06/2008 I had two firsts today. I held a four day old baby for photos. My record up to then was a nine day old.

A two to three year old child often cries when placed in Santas lap, but today I held a two year old and he did great. He snuggled up to Santa and was as content as could be. Then when his mom took him back, he started to cry. He wanted Santa.

I also had one of those great success stories tonight. A family came in with five and six year old boys. The five year old did great, but the six year old was hiding behind mom. We finally took a photo with just the five year old. Then I went over to the family and began to talk with the six year old. I told him I needed to know what he wanted for Christmas or I wouldn’t know what to bring him. He finally told me. I took him by the hand and suggested that we go sit down and talk about it. He did, and we got his photo with Santa too. The mom and dad were very pleased and most appreciative.

After six solid weeks of being Santa every day I will finally get a day off tomorrow. Another Santa has agreed to fill in for me. I have mixed emotions now that it is a reality, but I really, really need a day to rest. I suggested to my wife that I might run by the mall and check the guy out who was relieving me, but she informed me that I would not go anywhere near the mall tomorrow. As usual, she’s right. I do need a rest. Of course, I am sure that there will be a honey-do or two that I haven’t been able to get to with my schedule.

12/09/2008 Today, a lady came in with two little girls, about four and seven years old, I think. The lady whispered to me that the younger of the two girls said that she wanted to dance with Santa. So, after our visit, I slid them off of my lap, stood up, picked up the four year old and we danced. The look on that little girl’s face was priceless. She couldn’t have had a bigger smile. Mom was smiling too and had big alligator tears rolling down her cheeks. What a special visit that was.

12/10/2008 Here in the Houston area, it seldom ever snows, but snow is falling right now and it is even accumulating. Everyone at the mall was in a festive mood this evening. I’m sure it will be the closest thing we will get to a white Christmas, but I’ll take it. Of course, I’m taking the credit for bringing the snow. Ho Ho Ho!

This evening, a lady was walking by the set when she stopped in her tracks, looked at me and said, “You should be in a magazine”. What a compliment! It sure made me feel good to know that my Santa presence is that good. OK Santa, you had better watch it, or your head will get stuck in a chimney.
Santa Don

Bringing joy to the world, one smile at a time. http://www.santa2u.net
Imagedgal
Dec 23, 2010 8:30 PM CST
Name: Don Galaway
Baytown, Texas (Zone 9a)
I had yet another “first” today. An eighty three year old lady sat on my knee for a picture with Santa. So, thus far I have had everything from a four day old to and eighty three year old on my knee.

12/11/2008 A little five year old girl and her family came by the set today. I had had a visit with her a little earlier. She asked me what my favorite cookie was. I told her that I loved chocolate chip cookies, thinking that she wanted to know so she could leave me some cookies on Christmas Eve. Well, a few minutes later, here she came with a chocolate chip cookie for me from the Cookie Factory just down the way. So, once again Santa’s heart was melted into a big puddle. I guess I am going to have to start carrying a hanky around with me.

This evening a man, his wife and their teen aged daughter came by the set. They didn’t come in, but just stopped and looked at me. Since I wasn’t busy at the time, I walked out to greet them. The daughter was in a wheelchair, the victim of Cerebral Palsy. She is a beautiful girl. I visited with them for a minute, concentrating on the girl. I gave her a hug and told her that I thought she was a beautiful young lady and wished her and her family a Merry Christmas. She hugged me with all of her strength. Anyway, long story short, they moved on. A little later, they walked back by on their way out of the mall. I called them over and asked if I could take a photo with her. She was so excited. The photo is of me kissing her on the cheek. I gave them a copy and kept one for myself. The family was touched and her mom tearfully thanked me. It is sad that many folks will avert their eyes from someone in a wheelchair, but Santa would never do that. If I am able to bring a moment of happiness to that family, I will gladly do it. I asked her what she wanted for Christmas and she said she wanted nothing. I told her that she would have at least one thing; Santa’s love and I meant it with all my heart. I walked away with a lump in my own throat. I’ll never forget that young lady and I hope I get to see her again sometime. Thank you, God, for the privilege of being Santa. I’m not worthy.

12/12/2008 Today and tomorrow, I will not be at the mall. I had already booked some events on those two days before I agreed to be the mall Santa. The day began with a trip to the Barber’s Hill Elementary School where I visited with all of the Kindergarten classes throughout the day. There are so many things to share, but I’ll only mention two since I am totally wiped out and need some sleep. Tomorrow is another big day.

The Kindergarten was doing, “Christmas Around the World”, where each pod represented a different country and taught how they celebrate Christmas in that country. I was attached to the pod that represented the USA. I would arrive for the final fifteen minutes of each session and talk to the group. There were too many to interview each one, so I talked about my reindeer and how they were at the North Pole, resting for their big trip in a couple of weeks. Then I read. “The Night Before Christmas” to them. As they were about to leave, one group started singing, “Up On The Housetop” to me. It was totally their idea. The teachers were as surprised as I was. It was way cool.

I had lunch in the room where my daughter is a teacher’s aide in the special needs class. I did my little D’Lite thing for each session, and one little autistic boy kept trying to make his thumb turn red like I did. When I went in after the last group to get my things from my daughter’s room, she told the little boy to show Santa. He proudly held up a thumb painted red with a magic marker. My daughter told me that he started to get upset when he couldn’t make his thumb turn red, so she painted it and he was as happy as a lark.

That evening, I had an appearance with the Goose Creek Memorial High School Choir at their Christmas concert. As a finale, I came onstage and the girls surrounded me and sang, “Santa Baby”. Everyone loved it and we got a rousing applause. Then, I sang, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, and had everyone join in. Of course, after the concert was over, there were many photo ops. It was a total blast!

12/13/2008 Today, I went to a photography studio to sit for them for the day. It was so much fun. They had a scheduled visit every fifteen minutes, so I had plenty of time to talk to the kids. Tomorrow, it is back to the mall for the rest of the season, but these past two days were a nice break.

Tonight, I have a party to do. I am exhausted, but hey, Santa must go on. I met a little seven year old boy at the mall a few weeks ago whose family had lost everything in Hurricane Ike. I learned of it during our visit. Our church had been given some money by some other congregations to help some who had been hurt by the storm. We arranged to help this family. They will be at the party tonight and many have bought gifts for the little boy, which he will receive tonight. We will also give his folks a check for two thousand dollars to help out. It should be a very enjoyable evening.

12/14/2008 After my two day reprieve, I am back at the mall for the home stretch. It was super busy today. There was a line when I arrived until I left. Being Sunday, I only worked six hours. I have ten days left. The final five days will definitely test my mettle as it will be non-stop.

I know I may sometimes sound as if I don’t like working as a mall Santa. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love interacting with the children. It’s those long hours that have me exhausted to the point that I don’t ever want to do mall work again. I have other options which I intend to explore for next year. That said, I have gained some very valuable knowledge and experience.

12/17/2008 A family came by this evening with two small boys. They also had the man’s mother with them, an elderly lady in a wheelchair. After my visit with the boys, I asked the lady if she wanted to come sit on Santa’s knee. While she didn’t sit on my knee, her son did push her wheelchair next to me for a photo. I leaned down to give her a hug and she kissed me on the cheek and told me that her late husband was a Santa too. She was in tears by the time she got it out. Of course, that called for another hug for her.

Her son came over and shook my hand, thanking me for making it a special evening for his mother. What I neglected to tell him was that it was her who made the evening special for me.

12/20/2008 Today was the busiest day yet at the mall. I saw kids non-stop all day long. I don’t know exactly what was going on, but I had several very emotional experiences today, some of them nearly bringing me to the point of tears.

A little girl, about seven years old came for a visit. It seemed like a routine visit with her asking for several of the usual items for a girl that age. Then, she asked if I could give her brother a basketball. I looked around for a brother, but didn’t see him, so I asked her where he was. She said, “He is in Heaven”. It seems her sixteen year old brother died recently and he loved to play basketball. I told her that I would see that he got a basketball and that I would say a little prayer for her and her family. What I didn’t tell her is that I pray every day for “my children”.

After our visit, I walked over to her mother and told her that the little girl told me about her brother and that I was so sorry for their loss. The mother teared up and said, “It’s been hard”. What I didn’t mention to her is that just two days before was the third anniversary of our own son’s death. Sometimes Santa would like to share these things, but she had enough grief and I didn’t want to burden her with any more.

Another little girl came to the set holding a little cup in the shape of a Santa and gave it to me. It was one that you get at a place where you paint it and then they fire it in a kiln. I was so touched and told her that she was so nice to think of me. That little cup will command a place of honor among my growing collection of mementos.

Not long afterward, another little girl came in holding a little paper bag and held it out to me. I looked inside and saw two little tangerines. Wow! This Santa is blessed beyond measure. They are lying here on my desk as I am writing this, and getting rather hard. I just can’t bear to throw them away because they represent a little girl’s love for Santa.

A little boy came to the set carrying a two inch high stack of catalogs. I first thought he was going to try to sell me a magazine until I realized they were catalogs with items circled that he wanted for Christmas. His dad whispered that he would come back in a few minutes and pick them up.

Another little boy brought in a little paper sack with items cut out of a catalog. There must have been thirty or forty little pieces of paper in there.

On my way home tonight, my cell phone rang and a little girl’s voice asked if I was Santa’s helper. I told her that I was indeed. She asked if she could give me her Christmas list. I told her, of course she could. It turned out that she was the niece of one of my cousins. What a perfect ending to a perfectly wonderful day.

12/23/2008 A handsome young man came through the line this evening wearing a U.S. Marine uniform. After we had our picture taken I walked with him to the cashier and told her that this one is on me and thanked him for his service to our country. He felt guilty for getting his photos free, but I told him, “Hey, I’m Santa. Don’t cross me, or all you will get is socks and underwear for Christmas”. It was the least this old Santa could do for one of our fine young folks who serve in the military.
Santa Don

Bringing joy to the world, one smile at a time. http://www.santa2u.net
Imagedgal
Dec 23, 2010 8:31 PM CST
Name: Don Galaway
Baytown, Texas (Zone 9a)
So many of the neat experiences that I have each day go unmentioned because I forget them before I have a chance to write them down. Of course, just to look into the sweet, innocent eyes of so many children is a wonderful experience in itself. I wish I could put into words how it feels to have a child gaze at me with love and awe, and to give me the tightest squeeze their little bodies are capable of giving when they hug me, and very often a kiss too. I am blessed to be Santa.

12/24/2008 It is the morning of my final day at the mall and I look on it with mixed emotions. I am so very tired, but oh, how I love those adoring looks I receive from those beautiful children. How I love the excitement in their voices as they recite their wish lists to me. How I cherish the memory of those hugs and kisses and hearing, "I love you, Santa". Those memories are what will get me through to next season.

One job related hazard that Santa faces is catching all of the colds and other ailments of the hundreds of children he sees every day. I faithfully took my multi-vitamins and even extra vitamin C, but still, I seem to have cought a cold. I am so very glad that the season is over so I don’t pass my germs on to other children. I would feel horrible to know that I passed a nasty cold on to my kids.

It is now the evening of Christmas Eve and I am back home after a long day on Santa’s throne. I can hardly believe the season is over. As exhausted as I am, I have many wonderful memories of my first season as Santa Claus.

Farewell to the Season

My first season as Santa has come to an end, as has my journal. It has been an amazing journey. My life will never be the same again. I have said before and I say again, I am truly blessed to be Santa.

One thing I learned is that chicks dig Santa! Wow, I had so many ladies, young and old, sit on my knee for a photo. It’s a tough job, but hey, someone has to do it. Actually, the girls in the picture on the left are my two oldest granddaughters. And, the third picture from the left is a young lady I have known practically from her birth and a friend of hers.

Another thing I learned is that not all children are happy to have a visit with Santa. It seems that many 2 ½ to 3 year olds tend to be apprenhensive, or just downright terrified of Santa. The picture here is of twin boys who were less than thrilled at the opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap. But mom and dad wanted a picture, so they got it. The good thing is that next season, they will probably be excited and run to me with open arms.

I am already planning for next season. I hope to soon purchase my second Santa suit. I have decided on the old Coca Cola style suit this time. I love that style. It differs from the traditional style in that it has large buttons down the front of the coat instead of the fur trim. I had numerous compliments on the one that was furnished by the photo company.

So, what will I do in the coming months? I will get my suit cleaned, bagged and stored for the off season. I will clean and polish boots, belt and buckle. I will fold and put away my Santa bag and Cool Vest and inserts.

I will send out some “thank you” notes to some folks. I will contact the two companies I worked for, getting and giving feedback. I will begin to decide exactly what I want to do next season and plan a marketing strategy and time frame to get them accomplished.

I will pick some cold, rainy day to go through all of the things I have collected during the season such as wish lists, letters to Santa, photos and little trinkets given to me by the children. I will get my scrap book filled with these things and put the larger ones on display. I’m sure this project will take the better part of a day, as I will undoubtedly stop and reminisce over many of the things that bring back such wonderful memories.

I will continue my quest for more and more knowledge to make my personification of the big guy better and more polished than this year.

I will begin to plan for next season, deciding on exactly what direction I want to take and begin my marketing strategy. Unfortunately, as a small potatoes Santa, I don’t have the luxury of having an agent to take care of those things for me.

However, before I get started on my “to do” list, I do have some things which need my immediate attention, things that went undone while I was involved in my Santa duties. I figure that by the time I get all of these things accomplished, next season will be getting close.

As I write this on the evening of January first, 2009, I fondly look back on my wonderful experiences and look forward to next season when I will once again don the red suit and become Santa. What a great honor and awesome responsibility to be able to say, “I am Santa”. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
Santa Don

Bringing joy to the world, one smile at a time. http://www.santa2u.net
Imagedgal
Dec 23, 2010 8:33 PM CST
Name: Don Galaway
Baytown, Texas (Zone 9a)
So, there you have it. My journal of my first season as a professional Santa. I am now finishing up my third year and my love for portraying the jolly old fellow is even more profound than ever before.

Thank you for taking the time to read it and Merry Christmas!

Santa Don
Santa Don

Bringing joy to the world, one smile at a time. http://www.santa2u.net
ImageTwinLakesChef
Dec 23, 2010 8:59 PM CST
Name: Arlene Marshall
Twin Lakes, IA & Orange, CA
Zone 4B
It is profound. Thank you for sharing and may God bless you and your family.
Yum Yum Divas ~ ~ "Most recipes are not invention . . . but evolutions"
ImageBoopaints
Dec 23, 2010 10:00 PM CST
Name: Becky Capps
Phoenix, AZ 85022
finding joy one day at a time!
I agree Thank you Don....once again, for sharing with us. I skimmed it and will read it all tomorrow.
Imagedgal
Dec 23, 2010 10:38 PM CST
Name: Don Galaway
Baytown, Texas (Zone 9a)
Thanks guys. It was very gratifying to write it. I am so glad I kept a journal that season or I would have forgotten most of the things I wrote about.

I will finish my Santa season tomorrow at Bass Pro Shop in Pearland, Texas. I likely won't be back there next year as I turned out to be too much like mall work, spending too many hours in the chair with a child on my knee the entire day. I'm just too old and I leave it all in the chair. I'll do some prayerful thinking before I decide which avenue I intend to take, but one thing is for sure. Somewhere, somehow, I will be Santa. As it stands now, I will likely do more studio work along with private parties and home visits. I will also get more charity gigs since I will have more time. I am a trained hospice volunteer and have worked with the Houston Hospice "Butterfly Program", which works with hospice children and their families.

But for now, it is off to bed.

Santa Don
Santa Don

Bringing joy to the world, one smile at a time. http://www.santa2u.net
ImageTwinLakesChef
Dec 24, 2010 10:48 AM CST
Name: Arlene Marshall
Twin Lakes, IA & Orange, CA
Zone 4B
Merry Christmas!
Yum Yum Divas ~ ~ "Most recipes are not invention . . . but evolutions"

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