Mission. Possible.

This is me. Sitting on Santa’s lap. I was three in this photo. Now. Anyone can tell by the look on my face that I was privy. Yes, I knew that I was being scammed. After standing in a very long line, (with all the other unsuspecting schmucks), I was instructed to sit on that man’s lap, and tell him what I wanted for Christmas. I knew he was an imposter. I had tried to worn the others in line. But, I retained the full awareness that this was some sort of fraudulent scheme. Perhaps, even a hustle, of mass proportions. Yet. I did not understand why. My parents brought me here. They were standing just outside of the camera shot. My brothers and sisters were there too, looking on. I trusted them. I wondered what their game was here. Even still, I would not give them the benefit of crying, and certainly not smiling. No. I sat. And waited until the photo was snapped. I hopped down, put my coat back on, and vowed to get to the bottom of this. I was wearing my tan shirt with strawberries on it. This was my sleuthing shirt. I meant business.

I guess I should explain why, about the shirt. Strawberries have up to 200 seeds apiece. And, those seeds are on the outside of the fruit. Technically, to be a berry, you have to have your seeds on the inside. So strawberries are really little scam artists. Once I figured this out, it was my emblem for mystery solving. Hence, my strawberry shirt, which I picked out at Sears, just prior to Christmas. For sleuthing. Sherlock had his hat. I had my Strawberry Shirt. But Mom made me wear it to see this guy in the photo.  Good thing, really.

Back to it. We were at Rikes in downtown Dayton. We were seeing the sights, enjoying the free-samples in the candy department. We made several laps around that department throughout the day. Yes, we were a big family on a budget. But truthfully, I think the candy people were on to us. Anyway, about our third time through, the crowds began to thicken. It gave me the perfect opportunity to break away from my tribe. And break I did.

I doubled back through the second floor, and down to the mezzanine where the fake-Santa was stationed. A sign and a rope indicated that Santa was on break. I was an early reader, you see. Dr. Seuss, and all. So. I snuck back behind the big white chair, through the curtain, and found my way to the dressing room area. There I saw the guy, with that horrible excuse for a beard, dangling down around his neck. He was knocking back a slug of whiskey out of a little silver bottle, and snacking on baby cheeses and crackers. I shook my head and folded my arms in front of my chest. “Alright, Bub. What in the holy-blazes have you done with the real Santa.” Man, I was livid.

Just about then, two of those dang-grifter-elves hoisted me up by my elbows, and put me out in the hallway, closing the large door behind me. I knew they were in on the racket, as well. They were way too tall to be elves. But now, I was in a real predicament. I was locked out of the room. My sleuthing set on hold. AND. I was separated from my family, in a very busy department store in downtown Dayton.

I decided to tell a legitimate salesperson, of my predicament. They took me to Lost and Found. Which, by the way, is a little humiliating to be labeled as a “Lost Item.” I knew where I was. It was just that the others were unaware of my location. Regardless, the family came barreling in about 38 minutes later, by my watch. I was an early time-teller as well. (…more below)

That night, I got to sit at the head of the table. This photo shows it. I think they were thankful to have found me. I did not tell them that I ditched them intentionally. We ate ham, green beans, potatoes, and cornbread that night. My favorite.

And a few days later, at the big Christmas party, depicted in this next photo, I relayed the entire sequence to my Aunt Doty. She was my right-hand Aunt. I could tell her anything. Actually, I had three right-hand aunts. But Aunt Doty didn’t have any little kids, so I was always dangling around her ankles. (…more below)

The mystery was not solved that time. In fact, it continues. I know the real Santa is watching. I know he approves. I keep making the cut for the “nice” list. I think this is the sole reason.

But. My mission continues. To this day, I approach the fake-Santas. I just brush by, lean over, and whisper in their ears…” I’m on to you Bub. I’m on to you.” (…more below)


“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.

—”Old Man’s Advice to Youth: ‘Never Lose a Holy Curiosity.'” LIFE Magazine (2 May 1955) p. 64” 
― Albert Einstein


“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.”   ― Anaïs Nin


“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” 
― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles