Santa Sighting

I know you’re all already jaded about Christmas, with the Costco and K-Mart displays showing up in September, the endless bad Christmas TV commercials, and the growing pressure to figure out the perfect present for a gaggle of worthy recipients who already have more stuff than they could possibly use in several lifetimes.

But it’s important to keep the myth and the magic in the celebration — not to mention the profound miracle of grace which this ancient and holy holiday celebrates.

So I am sure you will be excited to know that Santa has been sighted a bit earlier than normal this Christmas. My hunch is he’s been taking productivity and time-management courses this year, and has come to the conclusion — reluctantly, no doubt — that this night-before-Christmas-and all-through-the house stuff, while magical and all, is just not working for him any longer. Last year’s last-minute wildcat reindeer strike nearly wrecked visions of dancing sugarplums for a whole slew of sleep-deprived, sugar-addled munchkins, so Santa’s playin’ it safe this year. If he misses Christmas, the resulting class-action lawsuit would leave the Elves on welfare and the reindeer eating bark again.

Santa, I might add, has also gone high fashion — even the Manalo would approve of his new couture: silks, jewels, natural furs. No more frumpy red suits with bulging buttons and black buckled belts for him — it’s Project Runway, baby!

So where did I run across the secretive and ever-reclusive Mr Claus? In my very own home, don’t ya’ know. His naughty-and-nice list looked a little worrisome to me (read: “coal in my stocking”), but I must say he was looking fine: trim and chic and seriously decked out — to die for. He was, it seems, the guest of the most beautiful and talented woman I know: my wife. (Note to self: spend more time at home — you’ll be less surprised by strange men living in the house.)

Enamored of all things Christmas, my better half set out a few years ago to tackle creating Santa Claus dolls. Equipped with a plethora of eclectic skills — a great artist’s eye, a superb seamstress, and an extraordinary knack for design — she started mastering the task at hand. Early efforts were attractive and simple, using porcelain heads — but didn’t meet her high standards, so she taught herself sculpting, and her skill grew immeasurably in a surprisingly short time.

Increasingly, Santa’s workshop began to look like Jeffrey Dahmer’s kitchen: eyes here, hands there, heads everywhere, more headless torsos than a gay pride parade in Mecca. Odd things started arriving by mail in a never-ending stream: clutch purses from the 50’s, bedecked by jewels; old mink and fur coats still reeking of cigarettes and Rob Roys; exotic fabrics from India and Pakistan, redolent with the smell of cumin, hand-woven with gold thread and semi-precious stones; boxes of goat hair (Angora, of coarse) still thick with brambles and barnyard filth; sculpting clay by the ton, quaint toys, tin soldiers and dolls. From chaos came creation: a clutch purse became a vest; fox and rabbit pieces from coat tailors became hats and cuffs; gaudy Indian fabrics became striking panels and subtle accents.

I was drafted into Elf duty (I must say I felt a bit silly in the tight green leotards and tobaggon-toed boots — now be honest: does the outfit make my butt look big?) to make the stands and posts, and manage the photography and web site. All in all, lots of fun, though.

So check it out: here’s her site, here’s her current Santas, and here’s some of her other artistic endeavors, including oil painting and designing smocking plates.

And don’t forget to keep the joy and magic in Christmas this season.