One thing I definitely need to do this new year is get out and walk more. I was walking on a schedule for almost a year and have slowly gotten out of the habit. The weather never seems to be just right. Last winter I know I was sick a couple of times simply because I was walking when it was far too cold to be out there. I took to walking in the malls which led to shopping in the malls which led to my wonderful wife saying I might be a "clothes horse."
It is stunning what one can learn walking in the mall here in Auburn. Santa changes, for one. He was kind of a sad guy for a while. He reminded me of a humorless judge from Law and Order. No children were seen near him as he sat around in a lonely hallway in the mall. A sign read "Please No Cameras or Photography Beyond this Point." Fair enough, no need to have parents wrecking the decorum. But Santa wouldn't wave back at me. I would pass by with my headset on listening to my music and make sure he saw me wave each time. Nothing. Now it happens that I have been spoiled by meeting the perfect Santa in Disneyland. A perfect Santa in a full sized log cabin had posed for pictures with our group, a fireplace in the background, he had spoken with a jolly voice when he had asked our all adult group to do Santa a favor. Could we reposition the fan for Santa? Poor Santa in Anaheim with a blazing fire behind him was still in perfect character throughout, making me feel we had actually done our part to help Santa with his duties. "Thank you, Ho Ho Ho, thank you, and Merry Christmas." Outside the reindeer were resting for their upcoming world tour, actual reindeer. As an adult, I might have missed this personal encounter with Santa had it not been for the endlessly alacrity of our friends Jonathan and Steven. I've been trying to learn this vital enthusiasm for life for quite a while now, and as it has been in the past, it still remains my main New Year's resolution this year.
It appeared to me that as the days went by, Auburn's mall Santa got lonelier and lonelier. Although I suspect the change on the sign up front had something to do with it. Part of it was now covered and the sign no longer said "beyond this point." It wasn't even carefully covered, a cheap scotch taped job. Just a piece of paper covering some of the more pleasant words so that the remaining words now forbade all photography except, I guess, that purchased from the mall photographer. Towards Christmas, Santa did change to a more likable fellow. His beard no longer seemed pasted on and he was more fluffy and jolly. Still, I avoided the mall Santa by this time. That sign and the thought that some person had made a conscious decision to cover up a part of it to change it's meaning bothered me tremendously. Clothes horse or not, I was not going to be supporting this kind of reckless capitalistic bah humbuggery. :)
There is a new grocery store in town called "Earth Fare." It has a great amount of social awareness which draws me in day after day. The good experiences I have had with food, personnel and policies are too many to mention. On Thursdays, for instance, each adult can bring 5 children for free meals. The idea is to encourage healthy eating for children. Perhaps there is a possible capitalistic long term gain in teaching kids that Earth Fare is the healthy store, but I think that basically, it is a gift to the community. Thursday nights are often shopping nights for me because of my schedule at work. It is loads of fun seeing all the kids happy as I shop. It reminds me a bit of Disney at these times.
And sure enough, one Thursday night, Santa was there. He wasn't the sad Santa from the mall. He was an awesome Santa with real beard, or as good as. He was as terrific as the Disneyland Santa. The air was filled with sounds of children's laughter and after I made my way through the line to checkout my groceries I waved at Santa. He jumped up and walked towards me saying, "Merry Christmas to you, Merry Christmas."
People often wonder why we take Disney Cruises. After all, how do we tolerate all the kids? If they only knew that the kids are teaching us every day of our cruise that life is simple, easy to understand, and is fun to enjoy. We often say that kids are rarelybothersome because Disney takes such good care of them just to dispel the myth but it is much more. In reality the kids are there just at the time you want them. They are discovering something new and exciting out the porthole. They are meeting Pricess Tiana in the happiest moment of their lives. Personal cameras? Mom and Dad, we wouldn't want to miss you in the picture, too. Disney cast will hold the personal cameras and take the picture right beside the professional photographer taking extra time to make sure you smile for your own camera. For the kids, the world revolves around their meeting of the real Princess Tiana. And if you meet Princess Tiana yourself, and you momentarily suspend your adult disbelief, you can feel almost exactly the same way, having been taught by children how the world really is.