Kids under the age of five can’t read. So I suppose I can speak freely here. On Saturday, December 2 at 10 a.m., Santa Claus, accompanied by Mrs. Claus, will be coming down Main Street in East Hampton high atop his red sleigh as part of the annual Christmas Parade. He will be smiling and waving to the crowds lining both sides of the street. The people will be smiling and waving, and occasionally a four-year-old in the crowd will stand still as a statue as if the truth has been confirmed: Santa is real.
Well, I’m up there, real and in a Santa Claus suit.
Also confirmed as real—or almost real, anyway—are the eight reindeer in front, pulling the sleigh. They will be on hind legs to be sure, seven feet tall, and they will have a zipper up the back of their brown furry costumes all the way up to their reindeer helmets. Prancing along, wagging their little white tails in the back, they will occasionally peer out the eyeholes of their helmets to wave a hoof friendly-like to another four-year-old.
The sleigh seat upon which I and Mrs. Claus sit—this will be my sixth year in this starring role—was built years ago by workmen at the Lion’s Club, and it has a second bench seat behind ours where an elf sits in an elf suit, operating a makeshift vacuum cleaner device. The elf turns it on and it blows white snow—actually potato flakes—out the dashboard of the sleigh where the missus and I sit, to waft down as a little snowstorm.
Yay us. And yes, from up here I can even see policemen wave and smile.
This parade, with clowns, dancers, singers and marching bands, makes a left turn at Newtown Lane, and the missus and I duck carefully under the traffic light to avoid electrocution, and then head up the center of Newtown Lane.
After a while, we make the turn onto Railroad Avenue just past Mary’s Marvelous, where the parade ends. In my first four years on this gig, everything went just fine, but last year things didn’t go fine, and the missus and I got to experience the nasty underbelly of celebrity. Coming to a halt, our sleigh was completely surrounded by adoring, screaming, crying children and their parents, and we had no way of getting down from the sleigh without falling into their hands. Who knows what garments these four-year-olds might strip off our costumes?
Occasionally a four-year-old would break free and storm up the side of the sleigh at us, but always-strong hands from the parents below thwarted their efforts.
In prior years, policemen in full uniforms would be at the end to push their way through the throngs, get to alongside the sleigh and help both myself and the missus down. They’d carry us off through the crowds—her to her car in the parking lot, where she could drive home to feed all the hungry elves waiting for lunch there, and me, Mr. Claus, into the back of a police van, where the prisoners go, safe from the crowds for the moment (oh the irony of it, Santa seemingly under arrest)—until we could drive off and away. But last year there was a mix-up.
I had a follow-up appearance at Rowdy Hall, in the center of town. There, parents and kids are lined up to meet Santa by climbing aboard his lap in this big, red club chair. They’d each have a one-minute personal session, they’d tell me what they want. I’d tell them they’d get it—then whisper it to a parent who showed up to cart the kid off—and that would be that.
Then back to the North Pole.
I am told by the new president of the Chamber of Commerce that maybe the Chamber forgot to tell the police last year, but this year the matter will be taken care of properly.
I hope so. Either way, I’ll be back. The kids have been good. And I have made them promises. And I keep my promises. Just hope all those chimneys are clean as always.