Twas a mere 48 nights before Christmas, and all through this Naperville house, not a child was stirring, not even a leftover Halloween clearance robotic mouse. The 93.9 holiday music was up high, at EPCOT was the spouse, the cunning husband and father hashed a new plan to finally get the children into Santa’s House.
As all Napervillians know, Santa Claus takes up a very special residence each year in Downtown Naperville as the free speech area is transformed into Santa’s house. Before I go any further, I want to say I really really really love the fact that our community rolls out the red carpet in building a cozy holiday cottage for Santa Claus to visit each year. Yet, I’m afraid this is where our happy story transitions into a family legend of holiday misfortune.
The two boys in the image above are in fact my boys peering into the window of Santa’s House last year. If you look closely, you can actually see jolly old St. Nicholas himself talking to a lucky child. I wish I could tell you this particular picture captured the boys stealing one last awe-struck glimpse of the big red guy himself upon emerging from their magically productive visit inside the house; however, the stark reality is this was as close as the boys got to Santa last year during what we thought was a fairly well-planned visit.
I can close my eyes and feel the crisp overcast chill of the December air. We were all upbeat and deep into the holiday spirit as we descended upon Downtown Naperville on our quest to meet the Kringlemeister himself. The boys were nervous with excitement as the wife and I confidently smiled at each other with the proud delight that can only come from knowing our certain plan was in full swing to arrive a half-hour before the opening and bypass the pain and suffering of enduring the long wait and ferret-like attention span of our then two year-old.
As we approached the bright red house, all we could see was what appeared to be a mass of family humanity leaking from every corner and crevice of the structure. The line had already backed up to the covered bridge and stressed parental units could be seen nervously monitoring their supply of diversional snack rations. How could this be possible? It was so close to Christmas, a Sunday and we arrived early.
With a “pipe” in one hand and a heavy-duty “dream” in the other, Santa’s shell-shocked elves began approaching people in line to brief us on the routine and provide us with what would only prove to be a cruel and fantastically conservative estimate of projected wait time. Though we only managed to move about five feet in 45 minutes time, additional elves began doing their best to instill within us a sense of hope that this memory-making experience would captivate our children by welcoming them into the foyer of Santa’s ranch house oasis to color and enjoy a piping-hot cup of holiday hot chocolate cheer. All I could see was a wall of humanity which looked a little more like a Tokyo subway during rush hour than mingling families passing time before their big moment with holiday destiny. Nonetheless, I trusted these noble elves that a special space had opened up for my little guys to gleefully pass their time coloring until we could catch up. As we pushed our way into the entrance, all we discovered once inside was a sea of mildly tramautized families who hadn’t gotten far enough inside to see the crowded line maze ahead but had also come too far to turn back.
Through sheer determination, we respectfully pushed our way through Santa’s festive mosh pit to arrive at the coloring table. However, what we discovered was there were no available spaces for the kids to sit. Even more, the supply of skittish crayons appeared to have gotten spooked and made themselves scarce. There was only one thing to do… “retreat… retreat… retreat” I called out to the boys. I told them if we got seperated to meet back up at the covered bridge.
When we finally emerged, we discovered that mom had not moved an inch. What followed was the tactical deployment of every trick in our bag to keep the boys preoccupied and out of the river. All in all, after nearly two hours passed, we regretably made the decision to throw in the towel. The boys took their modest wish lists and placed them into Santa’s mail slot in hopes the elves would forward them along to the jolly fellow. Before heading to the car, they both paused to peer through Santa’s window which resulted in the picture above.
The reason I share this true yuletide tale is hopefully to encourage the wonderful and well-intentioned folks who make Santa’s House possible to see if there is any way to improve this situation so that this experience becomes the source of lifelong family memories which they intend.
Also, I encourage everyone to pay a visit to Downtown Naperville during the holidays for the lights, festive atmosphere and, yes, a memorable visit to Santa’s House. The best recommendation I might give is to avoid weekend days and realize that arriving early prior to opening might not pay off. We are going to head over on the one of the select weeknights this year in hopes the crowds will be a little less dense.
To everyone at Santa’s House, our deep and genuine thanks for the blood, sweat and certain tears that go into this experience. We’ll see you very soon. Happy Holidays Everyone! SM