News from Vermont #253 -- A Happy Santa
Hello again Maple People,
Last Friday, I felt myself getting a little surly with the Christmas tree business. Yup, everyone these days wants the perfect tree, rightfully so, but for me, "perfect" translates to "more boughs and heavier"...kinda rough on my sixty-three year old frame. I knew there was a huge weekend ahead of selling them and wanted to be at my very best so I did something way out of style for me; I went down to the local drugstore and bought one of those cheap Santa hats..."What the heck," I said to myself, "it can't hurt...maybe it'll somehow 'lighten things up' and it's a lot cheaper'n a psychiatrist." When I put it on Saturday morning, I was pleasantly surprised; it fit nicely like a more expensive hat and, yes, I felt better! I trudged down to the tree yard and started catering to the onslaught of people who almost beat me there.
That reminds me of another time I wore a Santa hat. Way back when we were first married, Betsy and I enrolled in a thing called the "est Training", a mind transformational workshop created by a guy named Werner Erhard. Werner thought he had figured out the key to human transformation through his pricey trainings which were staged in large cities all over the country. Betsy and I traveled to Boston where we joined several hundred other folks in a hotel ballroom and, for two weekends in a row, got screamed at and accosted by the drill sergeantesque "est" trainer. We both graduated from "est" feeling dutifully transformed and, much to our parents' surprise, came home to resume our daily lives instead of going to find a street corner to sell roses. That year at Christmas time, we and a few other "est" graduates decided to spend Christmas day with the patients over at the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury. Probably because of my round face and pudgy cheeks, I was selected as our group's Santa.Although there has been much debate about the merits of "est" since its demise in 1984, I'll always say that it helped me figure out who I am. Post "est", I knew without a doubt that I was a shy, self-conscious person. What I did not discover, however, was that the last place an introverted person belongs is in a Santa Claus suit! I'd approach patients not knowing what to say, and when I made an effort, it was with my God-given soft, "wimpy" voice. After several feeble attempts, I retreated to a back corner away from all the patients and visitors. I had been there only a few minutes when a patient approached me. He sported an indelible grin and stood rocking from one foot to the other before he spoke:"I mean, I'm Aa...albert" he said. "I mean, I'm Aa...albert and I've seen, I mean, I've see...een lots of Saa...antas in my time, lots of Saa...antas."I immediately liked this guy and felt myself beginning to "melt".He went on, "I mean, lots of of Saa...antas and Saa...antas are aa...lways haa...appy but, I mean, you need t'be haa...appy.".I grabbed his hands and said "Thank you Albert! Thank you so much...I really needed that!". His grin blossomed and just before he ambled on to the next person he beamed "You're WOW...come"! I went directly into the restroom and tore off that Santa suit quicker'n a flick of Dancer's tail. After that, I was able to mingle with the Christmas crowd at the Vermont State Hospital as Burr Morse, "at home" in my shy, self-conscious skin.Last night I played at a family Christmas dance down in Vergennes with the Joe Levesque Big Band. Our leader Frank Mehaffey, a trombone player, issued Santa hats to the entire trombone section possibly so we could "wow" them with our presence as well as our playing. As the evening went on, it became obvious that all the small children in the house were magnifying to one person in the trombone section, the one with a round face, pudgy cheeks, and now, snow white beard...me! Thinking of that time so long ago, I slouched down in my chair like the Grinch would have and it seemed to work...they retreated to their parents. During our first break, however, I was caught red handed. A little girl approached me, grabbed my hand and said in her tiny voice, "Hi Santa. I'm Emily". I considered running but Albert's advice from long ago came alive and I knew I had to be there for Emily..."Ho, Ho, Ho" I said with a grin. "Have you been a good little girl Emily?". Her eyes grew big as saucers and she squealed her likes, requests, and dreams to me, Santa, the real Santa in her eyes, and, yes, happy this time!I think most of us will be glad to say goodbye to 2011...seems as though there was altogether too much heartache in that year. We hope and pray that 2012 will be better weather-wise and otherwise.Happy New Year!