In hindsight, I don’t know what I was thinking. I really don’t know what he was thinking, but I don’t know what I was thinking either. The gigantic pizza slice costume was one thing, but this, this was something else entirely. But nonetheless, there I was, standing in the middle of the pizza restaurant where I worked, in a Santa costume feeling stupider than I’d ever felt before.
The customers you could tell, were even a little embarrassed for me. I looked like an idiot. But the district manager had gotten the inane idea in his head that for some reason having “Santa’s Helper” in the store for Christmas Eve would somehow bring flocks of customers in for lunch in droves. What he didn’t know could fill volumes. Sort of like the time he taken me aside, just as I’d gotten four new tables who were all waiting for me to get them drinks to whisper conspiratorially, “I think someone is stealing…cheese.”
But I needed the extra money because it was my son’s first Christmas, and as a single mother who was also in school full time, I took every shift that I could lay my grubby hands on. Debasing or not, it was money in my pocket. Shockingly, no one actually wanted to have their picture taken with “Santa’s Helper.” I’m not sure if it was the yellowed, fraying beard, or the fact that my pants fell down about every third step that I took, or that I was obviously female, but no one seemed interested. In fact, everyone seemed to avoid me, which was just as well. I used the time to get caught up on my homework. No rest for the wicked.
Finally, just before I was to go home to my son, some family agreed to have their picture taken with “Santa’s Helper.” Perhaps they hadn’t seen me. Maybe they didn’t like their kid very much. Or maybe everyone just had a fantastic sense of humor. Who knows.
All that I do know is that they thrust their tiny baby onto my threadbare lap. And all that the baby knew was that one minute, she was burbling on her mother’s shoulder and the next, she was shoved onto this stinky scary bearded lady in an saggy red Santa Suit. She did the only sensible thing to be done: she opened up her wee baby mouth and she bellowed. She screamed, she cried, and she wailed. The picture was taken and a phobia of Santa was formed. This poor kid was going to grow up terrified of Santa. Jumping at holiday displays and wondering why the thought of Christmas always made her feel nervous and nauseous, always trying to get out of festive celebrations in favor of sitting in front of the television with her twelve cats and a pint of ice cream.
And it would all be my fault. Satan’s Little Helper.
—Becky Harks of Mommy Wants Vodka