Very few men among us are blessed with the robust physique, the saintly good looks, and the spirit of benefaction that it takes to serve as one of Santa Claus’ ambassadors from the North Pole. Fortunately for Santa Tom, he had already been gifted with the whole package when he first received his calling to portray the jolly old elf several years ago.
“One day in spring, the owner of a local furniture store I shop at asked me if I would be Santa at a promotional event he was planning on Thanksgiving weekend,” Santa Tom reminisced. “That was the day I quit shaving — and that’s all it took to complete my look.”
“The first furniture store event was wonderful,” Santa Tom continued. “It was all complimentary, so a lot of kids got their pictures taken with Santa that year who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. This became a regular thing for the next seven years, where I built up a nice little following. I was asked by more and more businesses to be their Santa during the holiday season, and before long I was putting 2,000 miles on my sleigh every year making appearances at any kind of place you could imagine, from stores to houses to country clubs to daycares to nursing homes.”
“Little kids’ reactions to meeting Santa run the full gamut of emotions. In our society where children are taught to be afraid of everything, it’s only natural that some should shrink away when they’re told to friendly up to the big, strange bearded man who just walked into the room. I’m lucky to be able to bring my wife Christmas Carol wherever I go, who brings a grandmotherly presence that puts wary kids at ease so they can warm up to Santa for a picture. No matter how a kid feels about Santa, though, we always get a great photo — I’ve mastered the art of photobombing!”
“That’s not to say that they’re all afraid of Santa at first. When I go to daycares, they cozy up to me so much that I sometimes I wish I could wear hockey gear. Little kids recognize me when I go out in public a lot, too, sometimes proudly following me around while they alert everyone that Santa also shops at Target. The bright red suspenders I wear around town don’t make it too hard to pick me out.”
“No kid’s reaction to seeing Santa in the wild struck me quite so much as one boy’s did. Carol and I were having dinner at a pizza place one night when this little guy, about five years old, spotted me from across the dining room. You can always tell the look on a kid’s face when they realize they’ve crossed paths with Santa. Not long afterward, a woman came up to me and asked if her grandson, Bentley, could ask me a question. I said of course he could.”
“Bentley walked up to my table, eyes as wide as saucers, and asked me if I still brought toys to children who are already in heaven. I said of course I do — that Jesus said ‘Let the little children come to me,’ so they’re always taken care of wherever they are. Bentley then showed me pictures of the fish he caught with his grandpa, and I showed him pictures of my reindeer.”
“People in nursing homes are some of Santa’s other biggest fans. Some of the ladies there, especially the ones whose Alzheimer’s has made them a little less inhibited, think nothing of asking Santa to come back with them to their rooms. They don’t even use a pick-up line! I’m always very flattered.”
“My greatest joy is meeting with the sick and the handicapped. They’re the most precious souls. When I visit children’s hospitals, the little hearts make drawings and gift wrap boxes of tissue paper to give to me as presents. I see one young lady every year, who can’t talk or sit upright, but she knows and loves Santa.”
“The brightness that you get to create by being Santa…the way it lets you give back…it’s something that I can’t put into words. It’s just the warmest feeling in the world.”
Santa Tom will visit anywhere in the Twin Cities where he can spread some Christmas cheer. If you would like to have him over, you may learn how at santaupnorth.com.
By David Scheller