I’ve now been taking my children to see Santa for more than two decades. I never thought I’d spend 21 years lining up in lengthy queues with hyped-up children who couldn’t stand in line for five minutes let alone the two hours it’s often been. I thought I would share with you the interesting and varied and often frustrating times, but fabulous times I’ve had.
Here is Archie just before his first birthday. He never had any fear of Santa (or any stranger) but I was quite alarmed by the eyebrows.
By the next Christmas we were a family of four with Miss Arabella being about 12 weeks old in this photo. There were no tears as I passed her over for the photo shoot. You can tell it was a very hot day by the grumpy Santa and the bare legs.
The next year we were back again and although Arabella had just turned one and is looking rather stunned, there were no tears. Archie was always the type where if they offered him one toy, he’d ask for two.
The next year we were blessed to still have Archie with us as in the March of that year he’d nearly been killed. With multiple injuries including two broken legs and nine months in a wheelchair, in this photo his knees are still swollen. Santa could have tried to look a little happier.
In 1997 Archie had just finished pre-school and was about to go off to big school. Miss Arabella was about to start pre-school.
The next year Santa looked a bit drugged.
Despite queuing for two hours, we got the photo!
We’re now into a new millenium and not everything is new. Miss Arabella is wearing the very same outfit she was wearing the year before. Mostly because being her favourite, she wouldn’t take it off. It’s at least two sizes too small for her.
In 2001 Miss Arabella started orthodontic work and she’s wearing braces. Where is Santa’s face?
I cannot believe I paid money for the 2002 photo. This was still back in the day where the images were shot on film so you had no chance of viewing them. Weeks later (and long after Santa had packed up and fled to the North Pole), they arrived in the mail. Had I known the photographer (if she could be called that) had taken a landscape image with nothing in focus I would have asked for my two-hours of time back.
In 2003 we queued for over two hours while Archie and Arabella fought like cats and dogs and ran around the store with such speed it was like they’d been shot out of a canon. I finally corralled them only to be taken into a little booth to find Santa was now Asian. Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m quite sure the North Pole isn’t in Asia.
In 2004 Archie and Arabella refused to have their Santa photo taken. I did try to encourage them to come with me but they’re both so stubborn. I was almost full-term with Alfie and we were having the most hideous heatwave with temperatures of 45C (113F) so I couldn’t be bothered arguing. Now of course they ask, ‘Where’s the Santa photo for 2004?’
In 2005 we had a new baby and started the process all over again. Both Archie and Arabella were too cool to come with me so here is our ‘only child’ at 10 months of age. He’d just started walking and again, no fear of strangers.
In 2006 I begged Archie and Arabella to be photographed with their little brother. Archie had just finished his first year of high school so was too cool to sit on Santa’s knee. Arabella came along because I promised her a full day of shopping. Santa looks over it.
In 2007 I managed to get all three children in the one photo. Little Alfie was so excited to be meeting Santa that by the time it was our turn (another lengthy queuing session) he was stunned into silence. Couldn’t even smile for the photo. Arabella is wearing her second round of braces. Archie had just knocked out some teeth and was also having some orthodontic work. I don’t know why he’s not sitting up straight.
In 2008 I again asked Archie and Arabella do the right thing and be in Alfie’s Santa photo. They both agreed. In the morning of the day of the excursion, I tried to wake Arabella but she refused to get out of bed. Just like his big brother, when you’re offered one balloon, why not ask for two!
In 2009 Alfie is just so over-excited he’s in hyper-drive. Miss Arabella is going through a fake-tan phase and Archie is realising that you can look really cool with a pair of raybans.
In 2010 I couldn’t muster the teenagers. Social schedules just too full and what teenager wants to spend a day in town with his mother. Here’s our ‘only child’ again doing his best to smile but no one seems to be looking at the camera. Another Santa with no face.
In 2011 I discovered the real Santa resides at the Queen Victoria Building. He has a real beard, is unbelievably jolly and sits in a crystal palace. Archie was just back from his Gap Year and Miss Arabella was about to head into her final year of school. All teenagers were present as I promised them dinner at the Chinese restaurant in the QVB which is sensational. We had a fantastic night in the city with Alfie again, being so happy and excited. He is now six.
In 2012 we were back to see Santa at the QVB. Again, an all-expenses paid dinner was promised to the teenagers. This is what they gave me in return…
With Archie and Arabella both working in pubs and restaurants at night, this year’s Santa visit was almost an impossibility. There was a window of just one day. The plan was that I would take Alfie into the city and get in the queue. Drew would bring the others as soon as Archie had finished work at 4.30pm and Miss Arabella had finished at a Christmas lunch. However, when Alfie and I arrived at 4pm the queue to see Santa stretched until 8.30pm that night. You have to queue for hours to see the real Santa. We were meant to see him in the afternoon then head to a dinner at my sister’s house but we re-shuffled our plans and went to the dinner first, gobbled it down and rushed back to the QVB. We arrived at two-minutes to nine with Santa leaving at 9pm but he is so jolly and lovely he said he’d been waiting for us all year! This Santa only works as Santa. He does this job for six weeks every year then returns to Bali where he can live off his earnings for the rest of the year. The benefits of being Santa!
But just so you know some things never change…
This year there was a full turn-out but Archie arrived in a singlet top he had earlier worn to the gym and his father was running behind him with an ironed shirt suggesting he change into it for the photo. ‘No, not wearing it, Dad, I’ll look like a tool’, said Archie so here he is in his singlet top. Alfie refused to put on shoes so is just in his thongs but I’ve decided, you have to pick your battles and this wasn’t one of them. Poor old Santa was looking very tired this year.
And it’s just not a photo shoot unless you can pull a silly face.
And that’s the journey so far. I wonder how long it will continue.
From my family to yours, Merry Christmas!