Imagine if you will the man pictured to the left having much longer white hair, and a much thicker white beard. Just think about that a moment. I realize of course that this is August, but if it were early to mid-December? Heck for that matter it could be July. Imagine him being quite, and I do mean quite, heavy. Imagine his cheeks are almost a bright red. Yes, I think you’re finally getting the picture. Personally I don’t see the resemblance, but I have been mistaken for Saint Nick, the Jolly One and of course Santa at least a half-dozen times since I hit the age of 45. I was asked during the cruise if I were Santa, which brought back to mind some of the other occasions where little ones had a case of mistaken identity. Years ago (before Florida), I kept my hair significantly longer than today, also my beard was a lot longer and thicker than today, and when asked to describe myself I admit to being a short fat white guy, with white hair and a white beard. Fifteen years ago I was a lot heavier, and being jolly by nature I completely understood at Christmas time might be confused. I never burst their bubble, sometimes with the encouragement of a parent I even played on their confusion. Giving them a confirmation with a smile or wink, sometimes I even exchanged words with the little one beyond answering their question. I would like to relate a few of those incidents of cases of mistaken identity.
The 1st time I was clearly mistakenly identified as Santa was on December 24, 1991. I was working at the GSA building in downtown Washington DC. It was shortly after noon, my office was on the 7th floor, and I had to come to the 1st floor to meet with my bosses boss briefly before sending everyone home for the holidays. I was dressed for the season, I had on a white shirt with a brightly colored Christmas tie, my red Santa suspenders and a lapel pin that light up and had Santa going down a chimney. I was in my Christmas garb to the maximum. I had the elevator to myself for 1 floor and then it stopped on the 6th floor and a Mom and her 5 or 6 year-old son got on. I immediately smiled and wished them a “Merry Christmas” and the young man looked up to me and his eyes got as big as saucers. He tugged at his mom’s arm and looked her. You could see the question in his eyes as he looked at his mom. The Mom and I exchanged smiles and knowing looks, but no words. Over the next couple of minutes I asked the young man if he had been a good boy and had he listened to his mom over the last year. He continued to tug at his mom’s arm saying to her, tell him mom, tell him mom. At which point, she again turned to me and smiled, letting her son see she was smiling, you could see the relief on his face. The elevator quickly got to the 2nd floor (their stop), and as they started off the elevator, the young man looked up to me and asked “Are you Santa?” While I didn’t confirm or deny that I was or wasn’t Santa, I did smile broadly and wink at him. He smiled back and as the doors to the elevator closed he turned and told his Mother, “Mom, that’s Santa!!”
A couple years later, again during the Christmas season I was out and about on a Saturday afternoon. I was dressed in blue slacks a red shirt and I had on my Santa suspenders. My hair was at its longest and my beard really needed to be trimmed. I had completed all the chores I had, and was at the supermarket picking up a few odds and ends for Steph. I was in the baking aisle, picking out food colorings, and Christmas sprinkles, Steph as making some cookies and she needed this to decorate them. It also happened that Giant (the supermarket of choice at the time in Northern Virginia) was running a special on wrapping paper, so I had some of that in the cart already. I noticed coming towards me were a mother and her son, he pointed at me and asked his mom a question, I heard neither question or answer, but I saw the exchange. Because he had pointed in my direction, and because he asked his mom a question, I was prepared when they came abreast of me and he asked me if I were Santa, I looked to the mom for direction and she shrugged her shoulders so I just knotted my head, he went on to asked what I was doing at the grocery store, to which I explained that Mrs. Claus asked me to pick a few items for her. He then asked why do I need wrapping paper to which I said so we can wrap the gifts for the elves. And I went on to tell him I was getting frosting and sprinkles for the cookies Mrs. Claus was making for our Christmas Party. Having satisfied his burning need to know what I was doing in a grocery store, when went on tell remind me what he wanted for Christmas, said good bye and followed his mom into the next aisle. I did the best I could to avoid that young man the rest of the time I was doing my shopping.
The final story I want to share with you regarding a case of mistaken identity happened in April 2001. At the time of this incident I was on my annual golf vacation. Myself and 7 of my best friends got together each year, rented a condo, and played golf for 7 days. Over the years we had vacationed in Florence SC, Myrtle Beach SC, Edsito Island SC, Maggie Valley NC, and the Orlando FL area. The group started as 4 and quickly grew to 8, at the time we ranged from 35 to 70 and many points in between. We had completed our round for the day, returned to the condo got cleaned up, and headed out to dinner. We were in the Kissimmee area and decided on an upscale Steak House off of SR192. I sat at the head of the table because I was left-handed in a right-handed world. We were enjoying our 2nd drink and the conversation focused purely on golf. How we played that day compared to the day before, and wondering about the course the next day. At times over the years this group could get loud, but we were civilized. A family of three had the table right next to us. No more than 5 feet away, it was a mom, dad, and a very cute little girl, maybe 7 or 8 years old. As in the past I noticed the exchange between the Mom and daughter regarding my identity. Their conversation continued and I noticed the Mom looking at me, I just knotted at her, and she told her daughter she thought I might be Santa, but she the little girl had to ask. I had looked away before the little girl saw me watching the exchange, but listening I knew she was making her way towards me. I felt a tap on my arm, I turned and smiled at this little lady, and as bold as you please she said “Are you Santa?” I replied “Yes I am.” She immediately jumped onto my lap, put her arm around my neck and pulled me close and said “Thank you Santa for last Christmas, I got everything on my list.” I said something to the effect that she had been a very good girl that year, and that I hope she was continuing that good behavior, to which she responded that she was. She then looked at the guys (who had been paying close attention to the our conversation) and asked me who they were. To which I responded “They are my elves.” To which she said that one is kinda big, to which I said he handles the big stuff, which met her approval. She then turned her attention back to me completely and began talking about all the things she wanted the coming Christmas. I gently told her it was too early in the year to begin accepting orders for the coming Christmas, and that she should sit down with her Mom or Dad later in the year and put together a list and letter. She smiled and said okay, to which I reminded her that she needed to be a good girl all year, and she insisted she would. She then slide off my lap, and started to walk back to her mom when she turned to me and in a very serious tone asked “Why are you in Orlando?” I smiled back at her and said, because we are on vacation. To the group she said “I hope you guys have a great vacation” the guys lifted their glasses to her and said “thanks” in group. And that ended that encounter. The Mom and Dad did smile and acknowledge what transpired and the dad mouthed “thank you” to us.
The reason I am sharing this post now instead of waiting for the Christmas season, is because during the cruise, I was sitting alone reading and looking out the window as my family was visiting the turtles, and this young man broke away from his dad and came right over to me and asked if I were Santa. It was July, we are in the Gulf of Mexico, on a Disney Ship, having the Disney time of our lives, and this one little man asked if I were Santa, I knotted a conformation and that’s all it took he went back to his dad and said something like I didn’t expect to meet Santa on the cruise. But he warmed my heart. See this was the 1st time I had been asked if I were Santa since I started using oxygen 24/7. I hadn’t realized how important those cases of mistaken identities had been to me.
As always your thoughts and comments are encouraged and welcomed. Take care, have a great day. — Bill