And Seasons Greetings, everyone.]
She sat at the window, her pert chin perched on her upturned palms, staring idly at the polar bear fishing in the nearby lake. She watched as the bear knocked a hole in the ice, and sat patiently waiting for the fish to swim by. Watching polar bears go about their daily activities had always been a favourite pass-time of hers – after all, the North Pole did not exactly offer much by way of entertainment – but never had she admired the bear’s sense of purpose as much as she now did.
It was, after all, that time of the year! The time when the adrenaline pumping hurly-burly of Christmas had given way to the reality that yet another year had gone by without her having accomplished anything of note. A time when she would look back on the barren wasteland that was the old year, and sigh with the realisation that the next year was going to be no better.
Twenty-nine!!! That is how old she was! She would be celebrating her thirtieth birthday in less than three months. Three decades on this planet, and what did she have to show for it? Nothing! An entire lifetime spent in pandering to that marketing myth called Santa Claus.
At the North Pole, it was almost impossible to escape the shadow of Santa Claus – even that polar bear must, at some time or the other, been accosted by tourists asking for directions to Santa’s Grotto – but her case was exceptionally bad. Like the elves that worked round the clock in the large factories and warehouses – making, packing and dispatching presents, she could not recall a single moment of her life when she had been free of Santa Claus.
“Santa Claus!!!,” she snorted. That was the greatest joke of all! Did any of the people who hung out stockings every Christmas even know that, had the corporate colours of the Coca Cola company not been red and white, the jolly old man who climbed down chimneys may well have been wearing a navy-blue suit? And how many of the people who dropped off a letter addressed to Santa Claus, Santa Claus Village, Finland –96930, Arctic Circle even guessed that the letters reached, not Santa Claus, but a postal worker who replied (allegedly) on Santa’s behalf.
A reindeer ambled past her window looking for a something against which to rub off the red ribbons decorating his majestic horns. Poor Prancer! He should have been with a flock of reindeer, prancing across the grasslands, instead, he was forced to spend his lifetime here at the North Pole, just in case somebody wanted to get photographed petting Santa’s reindeer.
Honestly, how could otherwise sane people even start to believe the myth of Santa circumnavigating the globe on a sledge drawn by reindeer delivering presents. Did they never question how the same man could be in thousands of houses at the stroke of midnight? But ever since that poet wrote that stupid story, Santa was stuck with eight reindeer, each with a name sillier than the other – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen! And now to be saddled with a ninth reindeer – poor Rudolph. If being forced to roam the North Pole wasn’t bad enough, he even had to endure a daily ritual of having red-paint dabbed on his nose!
The polar bear saw the reindeer coming towards it, and shifted slightly to make way for him. The two animals stood in companionable silence, contemplating the water, waiting for a fish to swim by. The reindeer had no use for fish, but this was as good a way to pass the time as any other. After all, what else could the reindeer do? The polar bears could, perhaps, be trained to stick labels on cartons and stack them for easy dispatch, but all the reindeer could do was grace the background while the Santa Claus look-alike posed for photographs.
Yes, Santa Claus look-alikes! Were people foolish enough to actually believe that the same Santa Claus had been delivering presents to kids around the world for centuries? Or did they merely choose to pretend that they believed in the whole Santa myth?
After staying with the polar bear for some minutes, Prancer wandered off to join the reindeer herd, but the polar bear stayed rooted to his spot. Watching him from her vantage point at the window, she couldn’t but admire the polar bear’s tenacity. The bear knew that he could always ask the humans for a fish or two, but he still chose to hunt his own food. Polar bears had been around long before the first human even set foot on the North Pole, and they were not going to change the habits of lifetimes merely because the situation had changed somewhat.
Not unlike Santa Claus Incorporated. A few years ago, if anybody at the North Pole distribution hub had voiced the sentiment that Santa Claus would continue to be relevant in the Age of the Internet, they would have been laughed at. Yet, Santa had transitioned easily to the cyber-world, and she knew for a fact that, for once the official web-site was not exaggerating. To Santa, the virtual world was as familiar as the reindeer grazing grounds of his own home mountain or the chimneys of Manchester. Every time there had been a fresh challenge, the concept of Santa had undergone a metamorphosis to meet it. Santa Claus had changed, as had his way of doing business, but she had never quite been able to pull herself out from the rut into which she been forced into.
The polar bear suddenly bent down, then straightened up and held up the paw in which he held his squirming, shining trophy. His pride intact, he ambled off with his prize dinner.
At the window, Nicola Claus pulled herself to her full height. If a polar bear could exist with dignity, so could she. It was time she took control of her life. She pulled out a piece of parchment and, dipping her quill in ink, started writing.
Nicola’s New Year Resolutions
1) Resign as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Santa Claus Incorporated, and force the Board of Directors to appoint a professional manager in my place.
2) Find a compassionate housekeeper to look after Mum, and move out of the North Pole, preferably to a place where I can grow chrysanthemums in window boxes.
3) Find a job in supply chain management – since I don’t need the job for the money, I can afford to wait till I get a good offer.
4) Acquire a new wardrobe, socialise, meet people my own age, learn to tango, cook gourmet meals at home – in short, get a life.
5) Stay far away from men in red suits with curly white beards
Nicola signed the parchment with a flourish, before putting it away in the drawer. Let overweight fathers and out-of-work actors have their fun – the only child of the last in the line of Jolly Ol’ Men was free at last.