Many moons ago, I worked as a manager of a little gas station. One of my employees took an immediate shine to me and, because I was fiercely protective of her and my other charges, she dubbed me “MamaCuda” because I was akin to a mother barracuda.
On my days off, I would babysit for her two darling children, who, of course called me “Grandmacuda” and I saw to it that we always did fun and interesting things. On one occasion, I loaded my two young protégés in the car along with their friend, a young diva in training named Amber, and we made our way up Ute Pass in Colorado to Santa’s Workshop at North Pole.
The attraction has been there since 1956. There are rides, real reindeer, a petting zoo, magicians and, of course, Santa “himself” is there to visit with the kids. And, on Santa’s day off, there are two or three gentlemen who fill in for him – costumed in full Claus regalia.
Because I am a Colorado Springs native, I had the fortune to befriend two of Santa’s stand-ins in real life. Both of them were great guys and, playing Santa was more than a job for them – they took their responsibility very seriously.
On our North Pole visit day, Amber was at her petulant whiny bratty pinnacle on the way up the pass. She sulked and threw tantrums all the way from the parking lot into the park. It just so happened on that day, I and my tiny entourage had scarcely made it past the reindeer when I heard a booming “Judi!”. Before I could look around, my friend (one of the “Santas” there) ran up, gave me a kiss on the cheek, a huge bear hug, picked me up and twirled me around.
As I was spinning, I looked out the corner of my eye at the kids – and watched as their eyes widened in amazement and then got even wider as the realization set in on each of them “Oh crap! Grandmacuda is friends…with…Santa Claus!”
I said “Santa – you remember Trish, Jason and Amber, right?”
“Ho ho ho! Of course I do! You’re all being especially good for Judi, aren’t you? She’s been my very special friend for a long time”.
As you can imagine, the rest of the day went off without a hitch – and, in fact, the rest of the year I could not have found more cooperative, pleasant children to babysit.
We lost touch in the ensuing decades. A few months ago, I was grocery shopping. I heard a tentative “Grandmacuda?” in the parking lot. Trish was there with her own little ones. The trip to Santa’s workshop was one of her fondest memories. It was one of mine, too.
So, belatedly – thank you, Santa for making my life easier that day, and for giving me a special story to share with all of my friends.