Santa (Bob) is hoping for cookies and milk by Bob Karolevitz "You can be our Santa Claus this year," Phyllis said Christmasly.
"No I can't, because I don't have a beard," I responded Noely.
"Yes, but you do have a belly that shakes like a bowlful of Jello," she continued Yuletidely, "and that qualifies you."
I didn't think I could lose my girth by December 25 � because I had just seen that new batch of lefse in the kitchen � but I objected because I didn't have a red suit.
"Don't worry," she continued. "I'll get you some false whiskers, and I've already ordered Santa clothes from the costume store."
I could tell right then that it wouldn't do me any good to argue. I was stuck with the job of handing out the gifts under our tree. I'd have to be a jolly old elf, whether I wanted to be or not.
Frankly, even with beard and suit, I didn't think I had the personality for the task. My ho-ho-hos wouldn't ring true, my eyes don't twinkle, I don't have dimples and whoever heard of a Polish Santa Claus anyhow?
No matter how I protested, though, Phyllis had made up her mind that we would have a real live Saint Nick for our family gathering this season � and I was it!
I also doubted that my nose would be cherry-red like the Santa in the poem. On the other hand, there was always the chance that my blood pressure would be up for the occasion, and it would look like I just came in from a long sleigh ride.
Thank goodness that the chimney routine was out. I wouldn't want to get soot on that rented suit Phyllis was going to get. Besides that, I wouldn't fit in the flue.
There was nothing to do but to resign myself to the assignment. Of course I could feign sickness on Christmas morning and stay in bed, but I wanted to be part of the family fun, even if I had to dress up funny-like.
Like a good actor, I decided to do some research on the subject. Santa Claus, I learned, was once sort of a skinny guy. The original Saint Nicholas of Myra, born in the year 352, was always pictured as a spindly fellow to whom fasting was a way of life.
He was a gaunt Kris Kringle in Germany, a lean Pere Noel in France; and Father Christmas, as the early-day English kids knew him, looked like he could use a little meat on his bones. Not until Dr. Clement Clark Moore wrote the Night Before Christmas did he start gaining weight.
When Thomas Nast, the political cartoonist, drew his American Santa Claus in the 1870s, a bearded roly-poly character emerged from his pen � and we've known him that way every since.
Apparently my avoirdupois was why Phyllis selected me as her first in-house Santa. While I'm not as fat as Thomas Nast's famous elf, I'm sorry to say I do have the rotundity to fit the bill.
At least I won't have to go on a diet to play the role. After all, we wouldn't want to go back to the scrawny Santa Claus of the old days.
I hope Phyllis will remember the cookies and milk for me. I won't be able to do the job on an empty stomach.
© 2001 Robert F. Karolevitz