---- — Editor's Note: Santa Claus took a little time on a recent morning before starting a busy day with children at the Grand Traverse Mall in Traverse City to do an exclusive interview with the Record-Eagle.
Q: So what are children asking for this year?
Santa: Toys, it's always about the toys — electronic toys. Cell phones. And DS's and DS3's and DS2's and DST's. I thought they were talking about (wooden) blocks. I thought, "I've got to get my elves to make some D's and S's." Ho-ho-ho-ho.
I'm very impressed with how many children are asking for the, what do you call it, the Fire? The tablet for reading.
Q: The Kindle?
Santa: Yes, the Kindle Fire. I've had multiple requests for this. That is a good sign to me ... I'm very glad to see that reading is alive and well.
Q: What are some of the unusual things they ask for?
Santa: "To see my dad." Or, "My grandpa died this year and I'd like something of his."
I had a little girl almost at the beginning of the season, she knew exactly what she wanted from Santa Claus: A roll of duct tape.
Q: What touches you most when you talk to children?
Santa: Innocence. They don't have a canned program. They have faith ... pure belief.
I really enjoy when mom brings the child and all they've been talking about all day long is going to see Santa Claus. And then they're afraid. They're afraid to come and sit by me and I'll talk to them and say, "I'm your good friend Santa Claus and I don't want you to be afraid."
My favorite, of course, is when we have the special needs come in —— adults or children. When special adults come in, they believe 100 percent. They are just so excited. I get a great deal of joy out of that. Ho-ho-ho.
I've had two children with autism come in, and they were so afraid. We're able to take time and not be in a rush. There was this one little girl, she was 15, she sat next to me and her mother was just thrilled — it was the first time (she'd sat next to Santa). We took a picture ... and this little girl looked at me and said, "I'm going to sit on your lap." I lifted her on my lap and the camera lady snapped a picture of her with a big smile on her face. The mother wept. And the picture taker wept ... it was an emotional moment.
Q: You and your elves can only make so many toys, so of course, you can't give children everything they ask for. How do you handle that?
Santa: Santa Claus always tells them, "You know your good friend Santa Claus loves you, and you know you've tried to do your very best this year, so Santa Claus will try to do the best that he can." Of course, you know me, I might have a surprise or two up my sleeve. Ho-ho-ho.
But they're totally unaware of the construction costs — the iPads and iPods and I-don't-knows. I say all of this has to go to my elves because my elves say, "Santa Claus, that pencil and paper that you planned is not the kind of pad they are looking for." Ho-ho-ho. So the elves figure out what the children need, and then the parents have a bit of Santa Claus in their own hearts. They help me out with some things that they think their children deserve and that they'd like to have. I sublet some.
Q: Any other thoughts about Christmas?
Santa: One-twelfth of every year is dedicated to Christmas — actually from Thanksgiving, so almost six weeks of every year, people are thinking about Christmas. Unfortunately, many of them are thinking of having to shop and the expense. But it's peace on earth and goodwill toward men. Is that seasonal? Is that only for a month?
I'm not commercial. I'm not selling anything. I am trying to get people to realize the gifts they have. When these children look you in the eye ... you can see the talent and the confidence and the gifts. They look you in the eye and they are listening to every word you say. They are our treasures. I see it in all of them.
And then there's, "Am I on the good list or the bad list?"
Q: They ask you that?
Santa: Oh yes, children will ask you that. Or when they come up, they're a little afraid. I say, "Oh my goodness, Santa's so proud of you, what a good boy you've been this year." And then everything changes. Because they haven't heard how good they have been ... We want this child to do this and this and this, and we keep track of when they don't. But where's the ledger when they do? I think we've got some work to do here.
Q: People will read this on Christmas day. What will you be doing Christmas day?
Santa: I'll be with family, and I'll have worked all night. Actually, I work much longer than one night, but I just stop time, so nobody knows that but me. So when I get everything delivered, then I'm done and I just start the clock again. Then I can continue with the day."
But I'll be with the family, and it's a very big family. All of the elves — everybody has worked so hard. And the reindeer have flown for hours and hours and days and days. So we just relax."
Q: Any thoughts for the coming year for children?
Santa: I give them two magic words to concentrate on: Yes, mom. "How about finishing up those vegetables?" Yes, momma. "It's time for bed." Yes momma. "You've seen enough TV." Yes, momma.
Wouldn't that be magic?