Visits with Santa Claus


Nancy waits for her turn to talk to Santa

Nancy Bryans, Brunswick Forest

When I was a little girl, my sister and I anticipated the thrill of our visits with Santa Claus during our annual Christmas journey with our parents to Washington, D.C. Before leaving home, our mother filled our tummies with a bountiful breakfast, cautioning us to eat every bite. There might be a long line to see Santa, and we wouldn’t have lunch until after our visit. My sister and I accompanied our parents on other shopping trips to the city, but Christmas season was special.

Outfitted in our favorite dresses, coats, hats, purses, gloves and shoes, my sister and I squirmed with excitement the closer we approached the city. My father pulled our car into a large parking garage, greeted by attendants who opened our doors and gave us a time-stamped receipt. We arrived before the stores opened, hurrying down the sidewalk to view holiday decorations. Large department store plate glass windows sparkled, festooned with green garland, red bows and colorful lights. Behind the big glass windows, holiday scenes changed each year, with each theme carried out from one window to the next. Themes included, among others, scenes from “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” “A Christmas Carol,” and “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”

I remember the anticipation one year of seeing animated dioramas instead of the usual stationary mannequins at Woodard & Lothrop, our favorite department store. Children and adults queued along the sidewalk, standing in amazement before the elaborate displays, not wanting to miss a single detail as electric current rotated figures and objects as if bringing the depicted Christmas scene to life. After we viewed the holiday window displays, we entered the decorated store at its balcony level, which overlooked the entire first floor, enchanted by the gorgeous seasonal décor. My parents shopped their way to the main event for us—Santa!   We meandered in a line back and forth in front of Santa, seated in a winter wonderland while he listened to each child’s Christmas wish list. My sister sat on one knee and I sat on the other as we told Santa what we wanted for Christmas. A photographer snapped our keepsake photo.

One time my father was not along for our Christmas trip. My older sister was instructed to hold my hand while viewing window displays and shopping. After seeing Santa and eating lunch, we walked down the sidewalk to Woolworth’s, a store I loved. A big red scale stood near the entrance door. It cost a penny, and to my delight my father always weighed me, acting surprised at the result. Inside a man stood on a platform, barking gadgets no one could possibly live without. My father bought dozens for our mother who tried each purchase once, then donated it to the church bazaar. She was not a gadget person. This particular holiday shopping trip caused our mother alarm when she realized my sister was not holding my hand. Distraught, she scurried about the crowded store searching for her little girl. Desperate, she alerted clerks and managers. A loudspeaker announced my description, but I was nowhere to be seen. Then someone spotted me on the big red scale, averting further pandemonium. Seeing my mother’s expression, I was glad my visit with Santa preceded shopping at Woolworth’s.  Every year afterward, until I was old enough for my mother to trust me, my father accompanied us on city shopping trips, holding my hand to prevent my wondering away.

But it seemed like a toss-up of who enjoyed our Christmas shopping adventure more, my parents or the two of us on our visits with Santa Claus.