On Thursday, we made our annual December trek down to Appleton's Fox River Mall for a visit with Santa.
When he saw us, Santa's eyes lit up, and he grinned from ear to ear. Then he shook my hand vigorously, and he and Jeff exchanged a hug. You see, he knows us! Not personally, but we have gone to see him every year since 2001, when Rachel was seven months old, and he remembers us - as he does so many who make it a family tradition to see him, even if it means traveling to get there.
When Rachel was a baby, my friend Lynn recommended this Santa; she said he looked really authentic and had a way with children that stood out even among Santas. So we made the 40-minute trip despite the availability of a plethora of Santas here in Green Bay, and we were not disappointed. After that, we knew that no other Santa would do.
In 2002, when Rachel was one-and-a-half, she flatly refused to sit on his lap, but seven-month old Abigail was happy as a clam. The next year, both girls were nervous so the only way they'd sit for a picture was if we all did - as you can see, even then they remained rather skeptical. :^)
But since then their enthusiasm has grown as they have, and now they can barely contain themselves as we approach Santa's little set-up. They are "his girls." Sure, this is his job (what a great retirement gig!), and he allows thousands of children to perch on his knees every day for six weeks. But he makes each child with whom he visits feel special, and he really does remember them.
When the girls were grabbing their coloring books, Santa reassured Jeff and me that he's under contract in Appleton for at least four more years. So we breathed a sigh of relief. We can't ever go to any other Santa - every one else is a mere "Santa's helper" – so he's got to last as long as the girls believe!