Forty plus kids, a magician, badly dressed ‘Disney characters, lots of food and drinks, and Barry was Santa Claus.
The year was 1992, Christmas was just around the corner and the children’s toy box was brimming to overflowing. You see, many of the mums and dads on our books were lone parents and making ends meet financially was a trial and half under normal circumstances. Birthdays, Christmas and other festive occasions simply added to their misery.
The idea of a community collection point for presents is not new by any stretch of the imagination. But there was one social worker, Pat Loxton – a top lady in every sense of the word – who worked her socks off to make sure no child on our books would go without either a Christmas present or party.
Pat and yours truly first met back in 1975 when were we 1st year University students and, coincidentally, commenced our respective careers with the Family and Children’s Services within four months of each other that same year.
I’d been out and about working with juveniles referred to the Children’s Court and had missed the weekly staff meeting where details for the children’s party had been firmed up. By the time I was back in the office it was late afternoon with just enough time to tidy my desk and head off to the station to catch my train. As I was walking out the door Pat approached me to congratulate me for volunteering to be Santa Claus at the forthcoming ‘Party. Somewhat bemused I said that I didn’t recall doing any such thing.
I quickly learned that missing staff meetings can be to one’s disadvantage because on that occasion I was ‘volunteered in absentia’ and, according to Pat, given a generous round of applause for my ‘generosity’. It seemed the meeting had determined I had the right demeanour and shape for the role. Hmm, shape indeed. Still, these days the shape is less rotund than previous.
So there we were in mid December 1992 all systems ready to go to bring a little happiness into the lives of girls and boys less fortunate. Although the Christmas tree had seen better times both it and the conference room had been decorated a treat. Santa’s seat had been placed along side the tree with two large sacks either side – one pink, the other blue. The long conference table had been covered and placed down one side of the room and was choc-o-block with all sorts of party food and drinks.
Party time started at 3pm.
We had a magician and a couple of badly dressed Disney characters to entertain the kids whilst they were eating and drinking their Christmas fare. Then there was a short period where everybody joined in singing Christmas carols around the piano. This was followed by the usual children’s games of pin the tail, bobbing apples and charades.
Whilst the games were in full swing yours truly had quietly left the festivities to don the Santa suit. Did I mention two badly dressed Disney characters? Compared to the Santa outfit they looked posh.
Back in the conference room the 40 odd girls and boys had started to chant ‘we want Santa, we want Santa’ with each chant louder than the one before. Whether it was the kids chanting, or the badly fitting Santa suit, I can’t remember. But by the time I had fixed the beard the chanting had turned to screaming. When entering the party room the noise was deafening and I was virtually mobbed – almost losing my beard in the process.
Still, at the end of the day the kids enjoyed Santa’s visit and gifts. But there was one boy who was adamant yours truly wasn’t Santa. His mum, standing just behind him, was smiling but not smiling – if you know what I mean – and was encouraging her son to make way for the other children. When I insisted that I was indeed Santa he leaned towards me and whispered that Santa was taller than me, had bigger hands than me, had paid a visit to their house the night before, and had slept with his mum.
His mum was now very, very red faced. I didn’t pursue the matter.
See you later…
August 18, 2004