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What Did You Expect?

So we headed off to meet Santa today. To fully understand the Santa Buildup Phenomenon, read yesterday’s post (which for some mysterious reason just showed up a couple hours ago). To summarize the Big Meeting, I offer you these few words:

She came. She saw. She cried.

Truly, what other ending could there have possibly been?

We spent the whole day talking about Santa, telling Maddie she’d be meeting him that very night. She got more and more excited and willingly put on her pretty holiday clothes for her big picture with her hero.

We even had a great time getting there. If you’re a New Yorker, I say the only possible place to get your photo with Santa is Macy’s Herald Square. Long lines, possibly; a lot of tourists, definitely. But where else will you get the history, the tradition of meeting Santa in such a way? Plus, they have by far the coolest waiting area: it’s a winter wonderland of miniature villages and running trains and animated toys. Totally worth it, in my book.

Which means that we thought it worth the schlep to get there, so Maddie rode the subway at rush hour – something she adored, while her parents held their breaths and hoped no one with tuberculosis would get on the crowded trains. Maddie stood on our laps and stared out the windows, watching the outdoors or the tunnels whizzing by at lightening speed. Every time the train came to a stop, she’d beg, “More! More! More!”

Once we got to Macy’s Maddie continued to have a great time. The winter wonderland setup was a visual cornucopia for toddler eyes, and she pointed and gasped and ooh-ed and ah-ed. The entire time we were in line – only ten minutes - she talked excitedly about “Tanta”. Even walking to his “visiting house”, she was happy and anticipatory.

And then we rounded the corner and she met the jolly man face to face.

Suddenly, all the Santa abstractions were gone, and in their place was a real. Live. Person.

Also known as a stranger.

santa.jpgWe first posed as a family for a photo, Maddie “sitting” on Santa’s lap as I held her there. You could see her recognition – and love of – Santa warring in her eyes with her innate mistrust of strangers. As Brian and I stepped away and left her to take a photo by herself, the war was over.

Mistrust won.

Maddie’s face crumpled and she began her wind-up for a full-on panic attack, which a hasty retreat from Santa’s lap and an even hastier procurement of Silky only barely turned back. Eyes red, small hiccups still going, Maddie stared unhappily at Santa as Brian and I attempted to take a photo with Santa by ourselves. Kiddo wasn’t too thrilled with being put down, and our “couple” photo shows a sullen Maddie standing in the corner, pointing an accusatory finger at Santa while Mommy and Daddy try to pretend they’re carefree and pose for the picture. Seriously. If I can figure out how to scan the thing in, I’ll show you.

So we packed ourselves up and bid Santa a hasty farewell. Truth be told, I’d expected as much; no toddler likes larger-than-life strangers. But here’s the kicker: the minute we walked around the corner, Maddie began chatting it up about Santa again. To hear her tell it, the two of them sat down to tea and had a wonderful time.

Revisionist history? Or blocking out a painful memory?

I think the one person who will be happy about this outcome is our church pastor. Up until now, he’s been Maddie’s least favorite person and it’s taken her over a year to even tolerate him holding her.

Move over, Milind. You’ve been replaced by St. Nick as Enemy Number One. Congratulations.


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