But I had no idea what I was getting into.
I was hired as a "Santa's Helper," which means that sometimes I take pictures. Sometimes I help parents navigate the finer points of easing a child through the first scary step toward approaching Santa. Sometimes I help a class of preschoolers patiently wait their turn. And sometimes I even get to be Mrs. Santa Claus!
I've learned how it feels to stand on my feet all day on cement floors (my body has adjusted), and I've also learned to remember to pack my lunch each morning.
But all of that doesn't come close to describing what this job is like. I really had no idea what I was getting into.
It's Christmas. It's Santa. It's children of all ages, from one week to ninety-nine years.
It's reindeer and fun crafts. It's dogs who love squeaky toys and teens who think they're "too old" to have their picture taken until we say, "Do it for your mom!"
|Yes, a gratuitous Corgi picture!|
No, I had no idea.
It's the big family groups who squeeze twelve or fifteen relatives of all ages into the picture because a photo with Santa is the best way to celebrate being together.
It's the Santa look-a-likes who spend a few minutes "talking shop."
It's grandparents bringing the little ones they're raising, trying to bring some semblance of normal into young lives that have known too much pain.
It's the couple celebrating their fifty-fifth anniversary, taking a photo with Santa to mark the occasion.
It's the misty look in a young mom's eyes as she watches her daughters greeting Santa like an old friend, reliving her own memories.
Really, I had no idea.
It's babies crying, toddlers with shining eyes doing a "high-five" with Santa, and pre-schoolers with their Christmas lists fisted in sweaty hands.
It's the girl with cerebral palsy who can't grin widely enough...and her patient brother who helps her sit on a chair next to the Big Guy.
It's Santa's gentle voice and smile that coax reluctant children to open their hearts.
It's the Down syndrome child who comes every Thursday with her dad to see Santa "just one more time."
It's princesses and Spider Man and Elsa and ballerinas and Air Force Captains, soldiers and reindeer and Paw Patrol pajamas, bow ties and vests and sparkly skirts and red velvet dresses, candy cane sticky mouths and favorite t-shirts, no matter how stained.
It's the look of wonder in a toddler's face when she gazes up at Santa. The Real Santa.
But most of all, it's scenes like this from a Cabela's store in the Dallas area:
The mission of Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops' Santa's Wonderland is to help families make memories during the Christmas season, and that's what we do.
I had no idea what I was getting into when I applied for this job, but I'm glad I did!
If you have a Santa's Wonderland near you, stop by and give Santa a hug. Better yet, have your picture taken with the Man in Red.
Make a few Christmas memories of your own.
I've had my picture taken with Santa several times this year! When is the last time you had your picture taken with Santa?
Jan Drexler lives in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota, where you can find her working as her alter-ego, a "Cabela's Elf-fitter," until December 24th. After Christmas, she will return to her full-time job of writing historical romances with Amish characters.