Today we went to the Mall for one of my favorite holiday days: the Santa Picture.
Moms all know about the Santa picture, don't they?
I've said it before, I'm not a Mom, just a SuperAuntie. One of my favorite responsibilities as SuperAuntie has been the Santa Picture. We took Oldest Nephew the year he lived with us, and have taken Youngest Nephew every year since he was born, and today we took Baby Girl with us for her very first Santa Picture.
Since we've been doing this for years, we know where the "Good Santa" is, so that's the mall we go to. Oh, don't think that every mall Santa is the same, my friends. There's the cheap "Oh-my-god-he-just-came-from-happy-hour" Santa; the "Ok-but-I'm-pretty-sure-his-suit-is-made-from-polyester" Santa; the "He-is-seriously-THE-Santa-come-straight-down-from-the-North-Pole, and-even-though-I-am-a-grown-up-I'll-just-whisper-my-wishes-in-his-ear-as-we-go-by" Santa, and a whole spectrum of Santas in between.
We're lucky in that a "Great Santa" is at a mall about a half hour from our house. It's not too long a trip, and the mall has relatively good stores. Not that we get to do any shopping on Santa Picture Day. Ha! To any plans that even resemble shopping on Santa Picture Day.
No, no. Santa Picture Day is about WAITING. WAITING.
And did I mention WAITING?
First, you find the entrance to the maze that is the Santa line. You wind through the maze, in a wheelchair, pushing a stroller, and singing so the baby knows you're behind her; keeping your eye on the six-year-old who's two steps ahead of you. You head forward until you bump up against all your fellow queue-ees. Every year, the Santa line is an odd mix of people: Moms in their stirrup pants and stained t-shirts, holding the hands of two three-year-olds in their Christmas best. Another mother, obviously on her lunch hour, frantically peeking at her watch, not even bothering to remove her coat while she cautions the 7 year-old she took out of school not to DARE getting that juice on his vest. A soon-to-be gawky preteen rolling her eyes at her mom, and her brothers, and Santa, and the world.
And the mood of the line varies too: One year, Youngest Nephew made such good friends with the 2-year-old Asian girl in front of us that they posed for pictures together while we waited. (The ones of them hugging always get a "who's this??" when people flip through the family albums.) Another year, we were stuck between a Mama-Nazi ("Don't sit on the floor; don't lean on the ropes; don't stand too close to the wall; don't sit on the bench; don't play with your shoes...) and a baby who spilled her juice all over her outfit: Her mum panicked, asked US to watch her while she ran into a store, so that they wouldn't lose their spot in line. (She rethought it pretty quickly, but damn...)
This year, we did OK: A mother and grandma with two boys (probably 3 & 8) in front of us; three kids (4,8, & 11) and their mom behind us. The three-year-old ahead of us was charming and sweet, and gabbed and played with the baby & Youngest Nephew, me, Mum, anybody who would listen. His brother sat quietly and read a book. The kids behind us mostly kept to themselves.
Our kids were excellently behaved:(She says, fingers crossed, knowing full well that this was a lot of LUCK, as other years have resulted in TOTAL MELTDOWNS in line. Being prepared ... Hello stickers! And binky! And bottle! Also had a lot to do with this year's success.) I brought a little paper and crayons, stickers, so Youngest Nephew could decorate his Xmas List for Santa, which he did between hugs for me & trying not to impale himself on the points of the fence they used to herd us. (I don't understand why they think these wrought iron fences are a good idea for holding a line full of small children, but nobody asked me.) Baby Girl ga-ga-ed for the first 3/4 of the line, then fussed a little for her bottle, and calmly drank it while we moved closer to our goal.
Speaking of 3/4 of the way through the line, did I mention that that is when word started to make it's way backwards to us that Santa was leaving for lunch at 2:00?
And that it was then 1:50, and we'd been waiting in line for 50 minutes?
Now, I bet you can guess just how quickly the mood in our line changed. Oh, yeah. There were some pissed of parents/grandparents/Super Aunties. We were all throwing that, "Can you believe this ??" look to each other, gearing up to fight for our rightful place in line. Grumbles of "Well, if they think I'm leaving after waiting this long..." Or "They should've closed off the line if they knew they were going to lunch...." grew louder as the clock ticked closer to 2:00.
Thankfully, the elves thought better of trying to cross the angry mommies, and Santa stayed long enough to see through the end of the current line. Those were some wise elves.
Youngest Nephew did his personal best with Santa: he introduced himself, talked about his list, smiled big for the pictures. Last year's discomfort and "get me outta here!" seemed to have passed. Baby Girl did ok... She just kind of stared at him for a few minutes, looked at all of us like... "Um..Hello? I don't know this guy!" then tensed up a bit. But she looked at the camera long enough before totally panicking that the picture came out beautifully.
So, although there was 1:15 minute wait, & despite the insane prices for the pictures ($29 for ONE SHEET, people!), & the fact that I'm so sore from sitting I want to curl up in a ball and die, Santa Picture day is still one of my favorite holiday traditions.
Looking at this picture, is there any doubt about why?