April 2024
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Saigon Kids™ Stories: The Woodland Santa

by Kevin Wells (ACS)

The last time I went into harm’s way the day after Thanksgiving, I was successful, but it was through luck and not skill and I have not dared another attempt

My mother had a thing about Christmas. It was non-specific. It was not the family times, it was not the special meals, of the children’s hopes for that Santa might bestow, nor was it particularly about going to religious services. It was about ambiance, so it was about all of those things collectively rather than individually. Sprinkle in memories of her childhood, and the 1920s era children’s book illustrating the travels and feats of Santa Claus, and you get the picture.

Two days or so before Thanksgiving 2005, she kept mentioning a “Woodland Santa” and how much she wanted one. So I searched, and I searched, and I searched and finally thought I had located one on the basis of a phone call to a store just 40 minutes from my location.

The store was in a part of town where the homes tended to the 4,000 square foot range and went up from there. This part of town was where the old money was and was the neighborhood where George H. W. Bush married Barbara all those years ago. Residents of the area are lawyers with their names mentioned first or second on their buildings, and founders of prominent local firms. The retailers were correspondingly up-scale and were not interested in staying open late. Unfortunately, my destination closed for Thanksgiving just 10 minutes before I finally arrived.

What good son does not try to fulfill his mother’s wishes? I resolved to be there the Friday after Thanksgiving to buy my mother a Woodland Santa. I had no idea about the appearance of a Woodland Santa but that would be addressed when I got there.

So I got up early, braved the cold, dark and the lunatic shopping crowd and arrived in time to lean against the store door to be shopper #1 when they opened.

A Maybach (!) pulled in driven by a lady who would turn out to be the #2 shopper. I have seen my share of Rolls-Royce, Mercedes, and BMW and other exotic automobiles like Ferrari’s and Lamborghini, but never a Maybach.

The #2 shopper was an older lady who give me a polite nod and a shy smile. The line filled, and others in line were women making me the conspicuous odd shopper. In the 45 minutes until the store opened, shoppers #1 and #2 naturally spoke and her first question was “Who are you?”

You have to understand that in the South, that question from women of a certain age is about your parents rather than your name. So I explained that my mother lived in Massachusetts and my father had died six years before. After we settled that I was not of the Doctor Wells branch, or the Georgia, Wells Dairy branch, she asked the reason for the visit.

I explained that I was there to get a Woodland Santa for my mother but, unfortunately, I had no idea what it would look like. By then, she had assessed the others in the line waiting and had taken their measure. She told me confidentially that she knew or recognized everyone there and stated that I did not stand a chance against that crowd. She knew what the Woodland Santa looked like and what the competition looked like, and she knew what I looked like and things did not look good for my prospects.

She said if I would give her some help and would trust her, she would guarantee success. A lady of a certain age wearing a very expensive mink coat just asked for my help and guaranteed success if I would put myself in her hands, what was I to do?

So when they opened the door, I held it for her and stepped aside. She saw the item in question and headed for it trying to beat another shopper doing an end-run around the counter. She put her blue veined and delicate hand on the item simultaneously with her competitor and stared down the younger woman. I thought her opponent was on the verge of collapse when she finally conceded defeat.. Was it telepathy? A steely gaze? Bared teeth, or an imperious sneer? Estrogen? The Force? I don’t know, but my side won.

She handed it to me and said “Kevin, this is the one I want, and we have more things to find so follow me.” So I did.

I followed her around for about 30 minutes taking the items she selected to the register where I was to tell them that they should hold them until Mrs. M was finished. One of the items was an 11 piece Bourgeat copper cooking set of immense weight and value, an item, no doubt, to be coveted by heirs and mentioned in the will. I know that I coveted it on sight. It was magnificent. The oval frying pan, in particular was the perfect weight and balance for a clonking the noggin of a midnight burglar.

I was not surprised to find that the staff knew exactly who she was and what to do. I told them that the Woodland Santa was mine and I am not sure that they believed me, but they did put it in a separate bag just in case.

By the time she was done, the sales staff was done also and had packaged everything. I paid for my Woodland Santa after I had shuttled her packages to her automobile. She, of course, had the bill sent to her home.

In the end, I had found a Woodland Santa for my mother and had a very nice shopping experience in the company of a little old lady of considerable talent and influence. I just wish that I were as good at it as she was.

That is my story and I am sticking to it.

2 comments to Saigon Kids™ Stories: The Woodland Santa

  • H. Clark


    I love to read a traditional and charming Christmas story such as this one. I can picture your mother’s smile on her first born son’s effort. You braved the cold, dark, and lunatic crowd to make her wishes fulfilled.


  • Suellen Oliver Campbell

    What an absolutely charming story, Kevin. Your particular gift for story-telling made it all the more delightful.
    Happy holidays to you and yours!

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