“ More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name-“
I wish I knew what it was about the Jolly Old Elf, the beard, the hat, the sleigh? Whatever it is, I am captivated by the magic. There’s something so special about Santa and I’ve never been able to put my finger on it and I’m not holding out hope that I ever will.
Casey saw Santa as an infant. A bewildered baby swallowed up in a pool of red velvet. As he grew out of infant-dom and into toddlerhood, his differences became more noticeable. We didn’t get the crying baby on Santa’s lap. We didn’t get Santa reading a sweet bedtime story to a sleeping infant. Nope.
We got puke as we walked into Nordstrom.
Epic projectile vomit hurled from a dark place of overwhelming anxiety and distress spewed in the never-ending fashion so perfected by 2 year olds.
We never even got close.
So like a mom full of magic, we licked our wounds, waited *years* and decided to try again. Sam was little, he’s a summer birthday so he might have been about 6 months. You know those little details you swear you’ll never forget –until they’re forgotten? Like I said it was years, about four of them, but we tried again.
This time a friend, we’ll call him Dave (because that’s his name) said “Go to the Old Cannery. We have a great Santa” So off we went, Casey the handful 7 year old, Sam the stroller-bound (prime puking age, remember?) and we walked into the Cannery.
Seeing Santa is such a normal thing. Kids dressed up, or not, waiting as patiently as possible in a line, anticipating their chance to climb up and whisper their biggest dreams. A picture is snapped, a candy cane given, and a rite of kidlet passage accomplished.
Maybe this ritual is so special to me because somewhere, someone in the universe said I couldn’t have it. Not one little bit of it.
Fragile X took Santa from Casey. And my mom dream of a normal childhood interaction died. Many of my mom dreams have died because of Fragile X. This one just stings more.
So we walk in to the Cannery, and there’s a line. You’ve seen it, a slow moving, big long line of a whole bunch of kids trying so hard to be good in the presence of Old Saint Nick.
Casey starts flapping, His ears turn red, he’s crying, falling on the floor, banging his head. The entire line turns to see what they probably think is a spoiled rotten brat of a kid have a meltdown on a grand scale. Sam is still in the stroller, completely unaware, and I scoop Casey up and carrying him like a football speed to the nearest exit. I’m afraid he’s gonna vomit. I honestly probably could have thrown up myself except I was fighting back the tears just enough to navigate through a furniture store and exit without knocking over any floor lamps.
I don’t even remember getting to the car or getting everyone in, but I do remember driving down behind the store, to the relative quiet and private section of the back parking lot and crying. Crying so hard it took me a long time to be able to dry my eyes enough to drive.
I’ve told you guys how many times I’ve failed. This was just one more.
The following day Dave asks how Santa was. I told him we never got to see Santa, that Casey couldn’t wait in the line. I fight back tears again turn away, and go on about my business, reluctant to revisit the emotions still so raw bubbling just under the surface.
Dave has a big heart. So big I’m pretty sure he keeps it in the basement of the Cannery because it can’t possibly fit inside one human. The size of Dave’s heart is only eclipsed by Jackie. Jackie is this compact little spitfire of unstoppable and she makes magic happen.
Fast forward a year and I get a phone call from Jackie. She says because of last year, Santa is going to come in an hour early just for the kids who can’t wait in line – what day works best and could I spread the word to other families like ours who might have our same trouble seeing Santa.
Hearts. So. Big.
Our day comes, and we walk in the Cannery to see Santa. We happen to arrive as he does, and who walks side by side, wrapped in his magical sparkly cloak all the way to SantaLand but Sam.
In that moment, the magic returned and I believe again.
Casey got to see Santa. I got pictures for the first time in Sam’s life and the first time in 6 or 7 years.
And sensory Santa at The Old Cannery was born. All because three of the right people figured out a way to make it happen. Dave, Jackie, and the best Santa ever.
Nine or ten years have passed, and each year we see Santa on our own special, calm and quiet morning. There are more of these mornings now, and more families than ever, and the program has grown to include some medically fragile babies who can’t be near crowds as well as the kids who simply can’t handle lines because of a disability.
Casey is 17. Sam is in on the magic and understands that it’s his job now to help spread it. I really thought this was the year we’d be done seeing Santa. And the thought made me teary eyed. Maybe because I missed so many I feel like I have to make them up. But whatever the reason, this mom isn’t done yet. So tomorrow we’ll go early to The Old Cannery and see Santa. The only Santa Sam has ever known. The one who dons his cloak and hat early to make it possible for Casey to see Santa.
The one with all the magic. Oh boy does this mama believe.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”
(Twas the Night Before Christmas was penned by Clement C Moore)