I can’t actually remember why we decided to throw our first Christmas party, but I do remember this: Shawn was adamant that he was going to dress up like Santa for it. He spent hours scouring the internet for the perfect outfit and he even bought new shoes and tiny fake eyeglasses. He tried on the outfit before the party and decided that his dark eyebrows gave him away, so he went to the drugstore and bought a white makeup pencil which he used to color in his eyebrows.
He took it all very seriously. “You know the kids are TWO,” I told him, “so you don’t have to do all this. They’re just going to be excited that Santa is here.”
“It’s not just for them,” he said, “all of our friends will be here. I have to be convincing!”
I laughed at him, but as with everything, I just let him be as ridiculous as he wanted to be. Once, right when we first started dating, Shawn’s sister Sarah-Jane told me that one of the things she liked the most about my relationship with Shawn was that I enjoyed watching him do completely off-the-wall things and never tried to make him be more civilized or “normal.”
Maybe that’s one of the reasons our marriage worked. I certainly didn’t ever make him stop telling inappropriate stories and I never asked him not to dress up in silly costumes for virtually every party. But it wasn’t because I was some saintly wife. I liked that part of him – the part that really didn’t care what other people thought. It takes a certain kind of man to dress up and convincingly act like Santa.
In any case, the party that first year party was a huge success. Lots of our friends came and Shawn slipped out of the party to get in his costume as it grew dark outside (“I’m going to get ice!” he always announced.) When it was time, he knocked on the front door and all of the kids started screaming with joy. A few of them also cried because hey, Santa is scary to some kids! So Shawn had to temper a bit of his excitement.
Still, he was so full of life. He was ALWAYS so full of life, but never more so than when he was surrounded by a group of kids who thought he had magical powers. Oh, he relished every single moment.
One of my friends wrote me the other day about this first party and the ones that followed. “Shawn was so great to all kids – not just his own. And OMG the side jokes for the grown-ups! I found myself watching you as much as I watched him those evenings. I loved seeing the joy on your face as he cracked us all up.” Another told me that she loved how Santa “always found a chance to flirt with Marjorie while her husband was out ‘getting ice for the party.'”
God, I remember that. His jokes were usually over the kids’ heads, just a bit sexual or otherwise inappropriate, and he always made me sit on his lap while he talked about how lovely I was looking that night. “I wonder if Mrs. Claus will want to go to bed early tonight with Mr. Claus?” he would say with a grin on his face. That always got a laugh, including from me.
He indulged all of the kids and listened to each of them intently. As they got older, and more suspicious, he had elaborate stories that he crafted to throw them off. But really, we all knew that the role he played as Santa was as much for the adults as it was for the kids.
Shawn was fun. He was the life of the party and he made parties like these come alive. But what I remember most about those parties is how he always looked at me. How his eyes twinkled, just like a real Santa, when he told jokes that made me blush. How he asked, at the end of every party, “was Santa okay this year?” just so I would pull him close and tell him, “you were perfect.”
I miss watching the gazes of the kids as they looked up at Santa. I miss the laughter of the other parents. I miss the pillow Shawn used to stuff in his belly to look more realistic.
But mostly I miss the twinkle in his eye. The one that said, “you’re my girl, Mrs. Claus.”