This afternoon I happened upon the answer to a childhood question: What does Santa do on Christmas Eve before he leaves to deliver presents?
One can’t rely on logic to answer that kind of question. He might not be the one who loads the sleigh. I can see the elves relieving him of that task, especially since they would not be up all night delivering toys.
Does Santa take a long nap, or is he too excited for that? Or maybe he’s a micro-manager, unwilling to trust that little Johnny’s stocking stuffers are put in and the right board game is included for Susie.
But I saw him today! I know what he does prior to his long-anticipated ride around the world!
Santa shops at Trader Joe’s on Christmas Eve.
I rounded the corner in frozen vegetables, and there he was in his motorized chair (his own, not Trader Joe’s). He was driving on the wrong side of the aisle, and so we came face-to-face.
He flashed a warm, likable smile that made his face shine and said, “You need accident insurance in here.”
Despite his not wearing his famous red suit, Santa was instantly recognizable. (If he had worn The Suit, the crowd would’ve been even more impossible.)
Santa made no effort to disguise his fluffy white beard, which measured a neat eight inches, by my guess, but he had a nondescript blue ball cap covering rather longish curls and a plain short-sleeved shirt and pants. Maybe it was so he could shop incognito. Maybe he was just being comfortable in our ultra-warm weather.
But his face gave him away at once. Twinkling eyes. Rosy cheeks. A smile that made me feel like I had known him forever. It was him alright.
I laughed. “You’re right. It’s dangerous around here,” I said. I didn’t know if he wanted to be recognized or not, so I decided on a generic response.
He knew what I was thinking, though. I could see it in the way he looked at me and said, “Merry Christmas to you.”
How about that! Being wished Merry Christmas by the Jolly Old Elf himself! How many people can say that?
His shopping basket was empty, and we were blocking the aisle. So, I wished him a merry Christmas and continued looking for Worchester sauce, which I later found out Trader Joe’s doesn’t carry.
Santa had made my day. He was every bit as pleasant as I’d always heard he was, and he was joyously happy. I wished I could have taken him home with me for cookies and sparkling apple cider. Obviously, that couldn’t be, but I kept thinking about him as I crossed off the items on my list.
I thought about his motorized chair and wondered if that was a result of descending chimneys for hundreds of years or a temporary accommodation to some injury. Then, it came to me! It was part of the disguise! No one expects Santa to be riding around grocery stores on three wheels.
Then, I rounded another corner, and there he was, on the wrong side of the aisle as before.
I glanced down at his basket. “I see you’ve found what you came here for,” I said.
His basket was filled with multiple bottles of All for One and One for All body wash and shampoo.
“Yes, I did,” Santa said. “I bought every bottle they had.” He looked pleased. “This stuff is great. You can use it like a body wash and wash your hair with it, too. So, you can only buy one instead of buying two products! And it works great!”
We were having the little visit I had wanted earlier.
“Does it have a scent?” I asked. After such an endorsement, I naturally wanted to know more.
“Not much of one,” Santa said. “Here. I’ll show you.” He unscrewed the top of one of the bottles and held it up for me to sniff.
“No, it doesn’t,” I said. There was just the faintest something in the air. “I’ll have to try that … when they restock,” I smiled.
Instantly, he held a bottle up to me. “Here, take this one.”
Jolly and generous, too.
“That’s alright,” I said. “I’ll get it next time.”
“It’s the one with the three on it,” he said, pointing to the bottle.
We smiled at each other for a moment, and this time I spoke first. “Have a wonderful holiday.”
“And you, too!” Santa said, bestowing that unmistakable smile.
I later saw him in the checkout line. There was nothing but body wash in his basket.
I thought about asking if I could take his picture. But that seemed an invasion of privacy. He must get tired of being photographed this time of year. No, I thought, he doesn’t. Not that man. He is happy to do it.
Still, I didn’t ask.
And now you know what Santa Claus does on Christmas Eve before he delivers presents. He is out among the grownups making people happy.