Ford column: Crying with Santa

  • Posted: Thursday, December 17, 2009 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Thursday, June 17, 2010 12:20 a.m.

While rushing through the mall last week, I paused to observe a classic holiday scene that warmed my heart.
Two precious children dressed in matching outfits were sitting on Santa's lap. He was a good Santa, and fanciful props like oversized candy canes surrounded his ornate chair.
As the photographer snapped the picture, the children were, of course, bawling.
Our Santa photos begin in 1998, when Henry was 3. Happy and content, he holds Santa's hand and wears a big grin. This led me to believe that my future 3-year-olds would love Santa.
"Fool!" yelled every Santa that would attempt to hold my girls.
Nellie, 1, makes her first appearance in a Santa photo the next year. Santa visited us at home that year, and from her perch on his knee, Nellie reaches desperately for someone just out of the picture, presumably me.
You can see her two perfect teeth clearly as she wails.
Henry snuggles up with Santa and rolls his eyes, annoyed by his sister. He grips not one but two candy canes in his fist, the bonus for older siblings whose younger siblings are petrified of Father Christmas.
Nellie gets a reprieve in 2000 but makes a cautious reappearance in 2001, sitting as far away as physically possible from Santa while still being on his lap.
Daddy's hands are visible, preventing her from falling. Henry is already eating one of his two candy canes.
We'd made remarkable progress by 2002, when brave Nellie, 4, climbs right up on Santa's lap at St. Luke's Episcopal Church. Henry is so big, his feet touch the floor.
Both Henry's long legs and Nellie's smile made me a little sad. They were growing up.
Clara makes her first appearance in 2003, a blissfully unaware infant. Henry helps Santa hold the little bundle, and Nellie counts off her wish list, finger by finger.
It will be five long years before Clara can get within 50 feet of Santa without an ear-piercing howl.
Her distress emanates from the 2004 photo, where she strikes that arms-outstretched, mouth-gaping pose. Henry and Nellie are amused.
I appear in 2005, holding Clara as she clings to me for dear life. That was the year that Clara started screaming the moment when Santa walked into the parish hall at church and didn't stop until a someone preparing meals in the kitchen volunteered to hold her.
She couldn't even be in the same (very large) room with Kris Kringle.
Clara doesn't appear in the 2006 or 2007 photos. We just couldn't put the ladies at church through that again.
Then, in 2008, a Christmas miracle occurs. Clara beams, smiling at Santa and even cozying up to him. Santa, who has visited the church throughout Clara's phobia, appears relieved.
We took our annual Santa photos Wednesday night. Nellie and her fifth-grade friends give Santa a group hug.
Henry and other teenage boys discuss world peace.
And Clara has a big smile for the big guy.
I'll tape the pictures to my doorway with the others. They're sweet, but the crying shots are still my favorites.
I wanted to tell the frantic mom with the kids in the mall not to worry. Her photo would turn out just fine.
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