Under duress and too many beers I agree to stand in for Bill, our Rural Fire Service Captain, to play Santa. That evening, as I leave the fire shed with the Santa suit tucker under my arm, I wonder why I have consented to this.
My sons bounce around all morning, excitement building because Santa is coming to the local park in Dad’s fire truck to give them presents. Tom, our eldest is nearly old enough to twig to the great lie, but Molly insists we let him hang on to this part of his childhood before he enters high school.
With Molly and the boys on their way to the park, I pull out Bill’s Santa suit. It’s hot and humid and there is a promise of an afternoon storm as I struggle into the nylon outfit. Looking in the mirror, I am the antithesis of a fat, jolly Santa. Sweat rolls off me as I try to fill out Bill’s oversized coat by stuffing a pillow down the front, making me look like a red ant with a beard. The trouser crutch hangs almost to my knees and the elasticated waist threatens to dive south every time I take a step.
Arriving at the park in a glare of sirens and blaze of lights, kids come running from everywhere to greet Santa. I stumbled from the truck, tripping over the long pants, using one hand to hold them up, aware of frightening the children if they are confronted by Santa’s boxer shorts.
The RFS boys have set up a tinsel decorated camping chair as my throne. Making the mandatory ho ho ho greeting, the children either stare at me in wonder or run screaming to their parents. I catch sight of Tom looking at me like I’m a dodgy Mr Whippy trying to sell him a melted ice cream.
The kids line up and I hand out the presents, while listening to fantastical lists of their hopes for Christmas morning. Tom and three mates are almost at the front of the line and I overhear their childish, whispered conversation.
‘It’s your Dad.’ Finn, a year older than Tom, pushes him forward.
‘Nah can’t be, it’s Santa,’ says the youngest of the trio, a tremble in his voice.
‘What would you know, you’re such a baby.’
‘Dad’s not that fat.’
‘It’s a pillow and look he’s got the same glasses as your Dad.’
Tom stands uncertain, hopping from one foot to the other.
‘Betcha not game to pull his beard down.’ Tom gets an elbow in the ribs from Finn.
My son stands before me, the truth revealed in his eyes.
‘What do you want for Christmas?’ I ask, wanting to hug him close but knowing I can’t embarrass him in front of his friends.
‘You know what I want Dad.’
His quiet reply is like the sun passing behind a cloud.
I live in Sydney, on the Northern Beaches and enjoy longs walks on the beach and a dip in the ocean in warm weather. I’m active volunteer in my local community library and I get great pleasure from reading and discussing the latest choice with my book club members over lunch or a glass of wine. My writing groups give me inspiration and motivation to keep persevering with my writing even when the inner devil voice is throwing negative thoughts at me. I’m currently working on a historical novel set in Sydney and Canada during WWII based around the life of my Uncle. I’ve been fortunate to have inherited his diary from 1941-1943 which details his service in the RAAF at this time. It’s like opening a time capsule. I also like writing short stories especially flash fiction and I’ve had several stories published in Positive Words Magazine and been shortlisted in various short story competitions as well as winning the Fellowship of Australia, Forestville branch short story competition.