I've already told you that I love Christmas (read: am completely bonkers about it) so getting a photo of Victor with Santa was a given.
I planned things carefully. I did my research on a few options and decided that Smith and Caughey's would provide the best experience. From what I'd seen they'd put considerable effort into ensuring their Santa looked convincing, his grotto tastefully decorated and there was even an Enchanted Forest walk-through, which sounded fun.
I wanted Victor's first visit to Santa to be a family affair, partly because I'm a sentimental fool and partly because I didn't want to deal with a squirmy baby on my own should we end up having to wait in line for a while. Joel had a day off this week so we factored a visit to the North Pole into our plans - we figured it would be nice and quiet seeing as most kids are still in school. When we arrived there was a queue, but it was relatively short, a helpful North Polean elf with a thick Nu Zilund accent told us. Apparently it wasn't a patch on the weekend where the wait was around two hours. Shudder.
As we stood in line on the ground floor waiting to pay there was a kerfuffle in front of us. Two mothers with a handful of children between them were not happy they had to shell out for a baby to walk through the Enchanted Forest when that baby was really only there because his mum couldn't very well leave him waiting at the door. Things got heated and a tad uncomfortable. Nu Zilund elf was apologetic but firm - rules are rules and they couldn't let that baby in for free and then charge other people for their babies to go through, at which point she gestured towards us. I shrunk into myself a bit, not wanting to be involved. We were there meet Santa, not to get embroiled in a customer services battle to the death.
After we purchased our ticket to the most magical place on earth (or is that Disneyland?) we did some more waiting, this time behind a velvet rope. Eventually Nu Zilund elf ushered us into a lift; one family out, one family in "so we have a nice flow upstairs" she cheerily told us before pushing a button to send us up to the North Pole.
When we landed on the sixth floor we entered a world of Christmas trees dotted with fairy lights; among them were displays of mechanical wooden elves busying themselves with toy making. It was quite impressive and I think all three of our faces lit up with delight as we ooh'd and ahh'd our way through the Enchanted Forest. We rounded a corner and saw a bunch of people frolicking amongst the trees, but within moments I realised they weren't so much frolicking as just waiting in line. Another line. Pfft, so much for the "nice flow". The oohs and ahhs subsided pretty quickly but we'd already paid so we were in it for the long haul. Those sneaky elves, who knew they were such clever business people?
Victor had been delightful, it was really special watching him wide-eyed and excited to see the pretty trees and wondrous elves, but five minutes after we joined that second line he started to get tired and wriggly and there was a long way to go yet. His rubbed his eyes with his chubby little fists and we knew that he didn't have much patience left in him. We jiggled him up and down, trying to keep him awake and desperately hoping we wouldn't end up with a crying baby on Santa's knee. After what seemed like a very long wait (probably because it was a very long wait), we were finally led down a bright red corridor and into Santa's grotto.
Bam! We plonked Victor on Santa's knee. The man in the red suit said nothing, but held our baby awkwardly under the arms so he could tickle him in an attempt to make him smile. "Over here baby" chirped the helpful elf photographer as she waved a puppet above her head. Click click click. Victor looked at us, perplexed, confused, definitely not smiling. We'd only been in there about twenty seconds but in the interests of achieving "a nice flow" I sensed we were about to be kicked out of Santa's grotto. In a state of panic Joel and I shimmied in close to the photographer and tried to get a smile out of our son by doing embarrassing parent things including, but not limited to, my Donald Duck impersonation.
Just as Santa was about to hand the baby back to us (seriously, look at the photo, he's not even facing the camera anymore) my quacking worked - Victor smiled, and we got our shot.
Still without uttering so much as a "ho ho ho", Santa handed us a commemorative bauble, then we were ushered out of there and sent back to the real world where we chose our preferred photo and collected the exciting gift that was included in the ticket price. It was a small sample bottle of Dermalogica pre-cleanse. I kid you not and I'm still really confused about this. Way to disappoint excited children at the last hurdle.
Of course the important thing is not the customer confrontation, the hour-long wait, or the weird gift, but the fact Victor had his very first overpriced photo with Santa. We nailed it, and because I'm looking through Christmas-coloured glasses I'm already excited about doing it all over again next year.
I'd love to hear your stories about photos with Santa - either from your own childhood or your experience wrangling kids in the North Pole.
- © Fairfax NZ News