— The following is an excerpt from the diary of Kris Kringle, Rt. 1, North Pole, December 2021

‘Twas the night before, the night before Christmas, and the mask of my new breathing machine kept pinching my big white beard. I hardly slept. I don’t like this breathing machine, but I’m pretty overweight and getting on in years, and the sleep apnea diagnosis was no surprise. As a loud snorer, I’ve been getting the middle-of-the-night angry elbow for years. So, I did it for Mrs. Claus.

Heck, it wasn’t the sleeping machine keeping me awake anyway. I lay there hour after hour, sleepless, on the night before, the night before Christmas, looking at the outline of my freshly pressed red suit in the closet door and pondering the logistics of my yearly routine. It’s getting much harder. People talk about the global population explosion and worry about the world having enough natural resources in years to come. But what about me? Will I have the resources, the stamina?

There are over 7.9 billion people on the planet. That’s up from 2.5 billion in 1950. So I’ve more than tripled my deliveries in the past 71 years, but the deadline remains the same. You can’t exactly deliver toys at breakfast, can you?

All these decades take a toll on the body, be it human or reindeer. There was a time when the reindeer and I carried on a good-natured, casual banter during our skyline drive. But now we’re usually too winded to speak and if Blitzen ever does open his mouth, it’s usually a quick word to Donder about how cod liver oil would help his joint pain. He used to be so much more fun. But who am I to talk? Me with my sermons on the importance of fiber and the need for proper reindeer calisthenics.

Given all the physical strains, I’ve considered outsourcing some of the work, but there are liability issues with a Santa “subcontractor” sliding down a chimney or gently picking the lock of the front door, which, truth be told, is really what I usually do, since most people nowadays have central heat and no chimney. You know, I’ve never really been as fond of chimneys as people seem to think. I want the suit to stay red, not ashen, right?

Of course, I love the kids. That’s why I do it. But they seem to expect more these days. And that makes it harder on me. The toy market is more diverse, more complicated than it once was. Funding these toys, especially the electronics, is also hard on Santa’s wallet, particularly with the recent total revaluation of North Pole property, which jacked up the assessed value of my toy storage sheds, as well as the elf houses. I’ve got to appeal that. Can’t Kris Kringle get a tax break around here?

This toy business is tough, too, because if you really want to make a kid smile, you have to be on your game. You can’t just browse a couple of catalogues for ideas, like Mrs. Claus used to. You’ve really got to study, got to play the games, too. I work hard at that, but it’s exhausting trying to outthumb the elf challengers on Madden football. You think you got the X Box chops? Well, you ever faced Santa?

But, oh, how I pine for the days of the Yo Yo. Not many people remember smooth sailing in 1932. But I do.

That was the year the Duncan O-Boy Yo Yo first became a hit. Times were sure tough then, even in the North Pole. So, the load was really light that year, because every kid wanted a Yo Yo, and most were content with just that one toy. That was the year I set a Santa speed record, three hours and 12 minutes.

But these days it takes more like 12 hours. Of course, I have to start in the east and work my way west along with the time zones. Kids don’t think too much about how time zones factor into Santa work. But they are the basis of all Santa decision making. I work my way north to south, south to north, from one time zone to the next, like cutting a lawn across the globe. Let me tell you, by the time I hit the United States, I’m whipped. And if a 10-year-old boy expects a new football, but gets a Barbie makeover kit instead, well, it’s probably going to happen somewhere in the Pacific West, when I’m too drowsy to think straight.

I never want to mess up like that again, because children sure have a hard time letting go of my mistakes. In fact, there are several pending “Child v. Claus” suits that I’m hoping my lawyer can keep out of court. Santa doesn’t like bad press.

Anyway, thanks for those cookies and that glass of milk. It really hits the spot. Of course, nothing will soothe these bones like that long nap I’ll have when all is done Sunday.

Twas’ the night before, the night before Christmas.

And Santa tossed and turned.

Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.


(2) comments

Dave Altman

Dear Santa

You are right. These are tough times. Even tougher for your long Christmas night. And like you said, aging makes things even tougher--but you are inspiration to me and all my friends. We hope the reindeer are up for this second year of masking up--we know it doesn't make it any easier to fly. As for me, I've got four more months to prepare for my special night. We are working overtime on caramels and peanut butter chocolates (although many of our baskets are sitting in ships off Long Island). I hope the supply chain problems are figured out by April 17. Just know that, like you, we have to keep working to make sure the kids can have their special day. Wishing you and Mrs. Claus a very Merry Christmas!


The Easter Bunny

Virginia Moss

Well, that was a good chuckle! Truth on several levels.

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