So it was ten years ago and my wife, who had just returned from shopping at Zions Crossroads, said she had a big idea. I winced a bit because big ideas on the part of the wife often involve great amounts of time and effort from the husband.
“I saw this display of Santas at Walmart, a whole grouping of them,” and she shows me a photo on her phone. They were garishly painted plastic Santas a good three feet high. “Can you imagine a whole row of them lined up by the pool?”
“Frankly, I can’t. This house doesn’t need plastic Santas from Walmart.” We’d built a minimalist house with all the traditional geegaws stripped off. Plastic Santas would corrupt its design.
“Oh, c’mon, it’ll be like a contemporary Christmas scene, it will be really cool.”
I fought her and her silly Santa idea off for about a week then one day she announces, “I’m going up to Walmart to get the Santas, want to come?”
That was probably the last thing I wanted to do but I knew she was dead-set on the Santas so I thought I could at least mitigate the situation, maybe talk her out of buying too many.
When I saw the Santa display, I could see why she was intrigued. They were grouped together, maybe thirty of them, all in a bunch so it looked like they were having a meeting or getting ready to sing a carol. Each was brightly painted in red with white, green and black accents and was holding a candy cane in one hand and cuddling a dwarf reindeer in the other who was gazing up at him adoringly. It was plastic kitsch of the worst kind. And my wife loved them.
“Can you just see them all lined up by the pool with their lights turned on, it will be fantastic. And look, they’re on sale.” The sign said, “Reduced, $13.99”
“I can see why they’re on sale,” I said.
“Oh c’mon, where’s your Christmas spirit? So get another cart and we’ll load them up.”
“Another cart? How many are you planning on buying?”
“We need eight, I measured.”
“Eight, c’mon, that’s over a hundred bucks worth of plastic Santas.”
“But they’ll last forever.”
I was thinking, “That’s what I’m afraid of,” but I knew it was a done deal. Tony and Annie were going to get plastic Santas—eight of them!
Turned out, setting up eight plastic Santas on the far side of our pool turned into a bigger deal than I’d thought. The pool is seventy feet long and twenty-five feet off the house so we needed cords, yards of cords and tens of plugs because though we ran cords out to the two ends of the pool, we had to connect with each Santa. And they were eight feet apart so we needed gobs of extension cords—which meant many trips to Lowes.
We set them up, waited until it got dark, then plugged the whole shebang in. There was definitely a WOW factor, eight glowing Santas. Funny too, so out of place, eight Santas sitting in a row on a dark field.
Turned out they were a big hit, my wife was right—AGAIN! The grandkids loved them so did visitors—except one—Katie Couric. She’s a big architecture fan and wanted to see our house. She loved it, but not the Santas. When I asked her, “How do you like our Santas?” She scowled, turning up her nose at the eight plastic Santas. They’d obviously offended her Upper East Side sensibilities.
But we soon discovered we had a major problem. Santas were toppling over in brisk winds, flopping forlornly face down on top of the pool cover.
“I know what we’ll do, fill their bases with sand so they can’t blow over.” Each Santa had a round opening in the back for the cord covered by a metal thingy. You had to unscrew the cover, stand the Santa on its head and pour sand into the hole. A three-hour operation with much spilling of sand and much swearing in the process.
But though my sand solution worked, it had a downside. They were now heavy as hell and they had no handles so you ended up putting one hand under an elbow and the other under the reindeer’s ear, hugging the Santa to your chest and shuffling along. Embracing a plastic Santa and stumbling around the backyard was not my idea of how I wanted to spend Christmas.
“This gets old fast,” I said as I unloaded the Santas from the Gator and set them up along the pool.
“C’mon, only six more to go,” Annie said.
Each year we hauled the Santas out along with the bags of cords and plugs and set them up, tripping over their cords and spilling sand, changing burnt out bulbs and touching up the Santas’ feet and hands where the paint had rubbed off. Santa maintenance and installation made putting up a tree and decorating it seem like child’s play.
One year we traveled over Christmas so the Santas stayed in the barn. A couple of years, we agreed to rest the Santas but this year, by popular demand from family and friends, they’re coming out again. And after a month of being Santa Claused, it was time to load them in the Gator and hibernate them in the pole barn. Now they’re grouped together in a stall, looking like they’re taking a major meeting, maybe discussing the show they’re going to put on next year?
So when we say, “Santa Claus is coming to town”, at the Vanderwarkers, that’s for real.