Though it is well-documented that Santa only works a single day each year, the debate rages on about what the man in red does with his 364 days of freedom. Are he and the missis just shacking up in the North Pole, staring at stock options? Is he engaged in the world’s longest game of “Words With Friends” with the Easter Bunny? Does he ambitiously hit the gym, head to fat camp or attend portion control meetings? I have a hard time imagining him as a couch potato. He must know all the answers to “Jeopardy” by now. The man is, like, a thousand years old. And falling in line with the other geriatrics by adopting a personal relationship with “The Price Is Right” must just be an exercise in frustration because his elves make everything he owns. What would Santa know of the cost of detergent?
What does a jolly ol’ fellow with a belly full of jelly do with his never-ending retirement?
As it turns out, he does a lot more than you would think. Lately, I have seen Summer Santa everywhere!
A few weeks ago, I was driving home from work, when Summer Santa pulled up next to me. He had traded in his sleigh for a Vespa in the same color. His helmet and head-to-toe tracksuit also were adorned in the iconic Coca-Cola red. He contrasted the bright color with the stark white of the cuffs, collar and buttons on his Summer Santa suit — and, of course, with large black boots.
I stared at Summer Santa for a long time, trying to decide whether he was the real deal. He had lost about 80 pounds and had a cigarette uncharacteristically dangling from his lips, but his full white beard and rosy cheeks could not be dismissed. I was just about to chalk it up to his being a distant cousin of the Kringle family, when Summer Santa lowered his shades and gave me a wink. There was no mistaking it; that man had a distinct twinkle in his eye! It WAS him! Santa Claus! My whole body felt warm and gooey, like marshmallows in a cup of warm cocoa.
I filled with questions. Where was Santa riding to on his summer holiday? Did he have friends in town? Was he here on business or just passing through on a yearlong road trip? If I hadn’t been heading home to a cute 9-month-old, I would’ve tailed Summer Santa until I ran out of gas.
Since then, I’ve had a few other Summer Santa sightings. The next time I saw him, he was dressed as an old-timey Western preacher, blessing passing cars in front of a gas station. He wasn’t wearing his glitzy garb or iconic red colors. Honestly, if it weren’t for his unmistakable white whiskers and rosy cheeks, he would’ve just looked like your average crazy person. But when I rolled down my car window to hand him a dollar, Summer Santa lowered his sunglasses, and once again, his eyes twinkled!
I began questioning my sanity. Was I fetishizing Santa Claus? Crushing on Kriss Kringle? Had ancient white dudes with massive beards become my new Matt Damon?
I tried forgetting all about Summer Santa, ignoring his daily friendly waves at my car from his spot at the gas station, but it was an exercise in futility. Summer Santa was everywhere. The most recent time I saw him, he had shown up at my local grocery, wearing a floral Hawaiian shirt, shorts and shades. When I let him and his single bag of jerky — presumably not reindeer jerky — cut ahead of me in line at the checkout, he said: “Thank you. It’s nice to see you again.”
I nodded. Awestruck. Like a 5-year-old about to sit on Mall Santa’s lap for the first time.
I have three theories: 1) I’m insane. 2) I have a Summer Santa stalker. 3) Maybe this is Santa’s thing. Maybe he spends his retirement on his hog, hitting up new towns, spreading the Gospel and good cheer. After a few weeks’ hard work, he dons a flower frock, stocks up on snacks and hops a plane to Hawaii before moving on to the next town. A well-deserved vacation for the habitually retired Santa.
It was nice seeing you, Summer Santa. Here’s hoping that spilling your summer secrets doesn’t get me a permanent spot on the “naughty” list.