This is the story of our beloved Ugly Santa:
When I was a little girl, my mother would hang this Santa on the doorknob in our home. I inherited him once I left home and started my life as an adult. Why I kept him all these years (and that’s a lot of years), I will never know. Like my mother’s silver tea service that she bequeathed me, some family heirlooms hang around long after they are appreciated.
I don’t think Ugly looked much differently when I was a child than he does now. Notice the fluffy-falling-off-because-the-cats-attacked-it beard. His cheeks and nose are painted a Pepto Bismol pink that makes him look more like he’s very angry than jolly. Hideous, right? Even though Ugly is grotesque he is much loved in our house in a respectfully eccentric manner.
The Cute, but Scary Santa
We also owned a a cute toy Santa that was battery operated and hit a toy drum as it trooped around the kitchen in our old house. It would march towards you, stop, then hit the drum in time to the tinny music playing from within it. Then it would continue marching. That Santa scared our daughters to death! They’d scream a high pitched squeal while leaping on their Little Tikes desk. Needless to say, we gave it away a long time ago.
But the Ugly Santa has stayed with us all these years and I have so many memories of him. To play a prank on each other, my daughter and I hid Ugly in each other’s belongings–our bed pillow, coat pocket, medicine cabinet or Christmas stocking, etc. During winter break, she returned him to me either hiding him in an obvious place where I would find him (like the top of the Christmas tree) or merely presenting him to me like a dishonored knight returning his sword to his queen. Every time, I would feign surprise at finding him and she’d warn me not to trick her again. Whether she actually meant it or not, I don’t know.
Something makes me think she expected Ugly to appear every year.
Ugly Santa Takes a Trip
One time I really pulled a great prank on her. We took a cruise around Christmas day and of course I packed Ugly for the trip. Our darling girl was at the very “this is so embarrassing” age, probably about fourteen years old. Anything and everything embarrassed her, because you know, she was too cool for us and even the world around her.
That didn’t stop me.
One evening, the hunky handsome waiter brought out our food, presented it so elegantly, lifted the silver food warmer and… voila! There was Ugly Santa. The look of surprise on Izzie’s face was absolutely priceless! We laughed and laughed.
We have continued to hide Ugly every year since then. He is always hidden somewhere within the gifts. During those years, he was a way for me to stay connected to my daughter. Maybe other gifts would fade away, wear out or break, but Ugly Santa withstood the test of time. He was a constant for us during her quickly changing childhood.
This year was no exception. I kept Ugly in my own underwear drawer for a whole year so I wouldn’t forget him come this Christmas. I’d say that was some heavy dedication to an inanimate object! In the hottest days of summer, it was very funny spying him in all his glory packed within my unmentionables. Christmas felt so far away.
Time Has a Way of Changing Things
But this year was different. Izzie is married now and an adult. She and her husband are quite busy building a life for themselves. Sometimes they are so serious in their journey to establish themselves, I worry that they have forgotten how to have fun. (Ignore me. That’s just the mother worrying within me.) Being an adult has a large share of seriousness don’t you think? That’s a heady realization for a young couple.
I thought my daughter would get a kick out of Ugly and explain about him to her new husband. I was looking forward to our chuckling as we had always done. When she unloaded her Christmas stocking and found Ugly at the bottom waiting for her, she smiled. There was no laugh or anguished sigh.
Suddenly, I realized that our days with Ugly were over and I felt a little embarrassed that I hadn’t realized that on my own. My dear, sweet, funny daughter moved on. I guess I was supposed to move on, too.
I don’t think Christmas will be the same without Ugly Santa. He is so gross, he is beautiful. Toys like a drumming Santa and Elf on the Shelf will come and go with time. But Ugly Santa? Well, he’ll just have to be put away (in a box) until our new granddaughter is old enough to appreciate him. Then, hopefully, the fun begins all over again.
I sure hope so.