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About 16 or 17 years ago, I was asked by Greenfield School to fill in for Santa Claus at the White’s Lights Christmas Celebration. Since my oldest son, Hunter, was going to preschool at Greenfield at the time, I reluctantly agreed. Hey, if Santa needed some help due to a busy holiday schedule, I figured I could strap on the red suit, black boots and white beard and give it a go.
How hard could it be? Right?
Well, the Friday night that Santa needed me to cover for him arrived and I admit I was a little bit nervous. It is a big responsibility to help Santa with Christmas and all the children. Santa’s workers helped get me situated into his backup outfit and although the coats and pants were a little loose and the beard was itchy, it wasn’t that bad. I felt kind of honored, to be honest.
One of Santa’s assistants put a microphone on me and sent me out onto the big deck with a chair in the middle of the pond that was the centerpiece of the White’s Lights experience. I was ready to meet and greet the kids after their parents drove through the spectacular light show. With the Christmas music playing throughout the area, it was quite impressive.
There was only one problem. It was hot. Somehow, I had managed to volunteer for the one night in December that was 80 degrees. Kids were literally wearing shorts and T-shirts when they came to talk with Santa. I was really sweating and having kids sit on my knee was not helping the situation.
After talking with about 20 kids, I had a short break in the action and I had time to drink a bottle of water. Did I mention how hot it was? And I was really sweating underneath the Santa outfit? Well, I forgot I had a microphone on me and truthfully, I didn’t even know what it was for. It didn’t seem like there was any real purpose to it. So anyway, I apparently started mumbling to myself about how hot I was and I used a few choice words that Santa should not use. In my defense, I thought I was by myself and I didn’t think anybody could hear me.
Well, about 15 minutes later, my wife, Dana, came running out onto the deck. I thought she was there to get a picture with her favorite Santa Claus or she had brought Hunter to see Santa.
“David, turn that microphone off for a second.”
So, I turned it off while wondering how did she even know I had a microphone.
“You are on the radio,” she informed me. “Everybody listening can hear everything you are saying — and I mean everything. You are on the channel that plays all the Christmas music.”
Immediately, I was horrified because I knew exactly what I had been mumbling to myself just 20 minutes ago while I gulped down that bottle of water. Talk about embarrassing. I really had no idea I was on the radio, but I was pretty sure this was bad enough offense to get fired. Was Santa really going to have to let me go?
That Christmas Eve we left Santa milk and cookies out like we always do. The next morning there was a note left for me by Santa. It read:
Thanks for the help, but watch your mouth.
You never know who is listening.
P.S. I will let this one slide because it was hot.
Side note: We now use some of the blowups and lights from White’s Lights at the Wilson Parks and Recreation Department’s Train of Lights. So, come on out during December and enjoy this new Wilson tradition. And I want to send a big thank you to the White family for the donations. Happy holiday season, everybody!
David Lee is the Wilson Parks and Recreation Department Director. He is also a part-time golfer, part-time writer and, along with his wife, Dana, full-time parents of two boys.