No Surprises, Please.

February 28, 2021

The little local TV station in the Alabama town where I grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s ran tape year-round from the previous Christmas season in which area children tentatively approached the throne of the station’s official Santa Claus.

The TV Santa wore a lavalier mic, allowing the television audience to hear the conversation he was having with each child on his lap.

What I remember best from these recordings is the children arriving at Santa and becoming at a total loss for words. I mean, here’s their chance to ask THE Santa Claus for their heart’s desire—and the cat, more often than not, gets their tongue.

Santa, ever patient, would feed them their lines. “Would you like … a football?” The boy, fingers in his mouth, would nod. If it was a girl, it was always, “Would you like a Barbie doll?” A nod. “Un-hunh.”

Santa would end each of these one-sided conversations with, “And how about some surprises? Would you like some surprises?” Another tentative nod. Now get me outta here!

It was boring to watch. But this was before cable television was really a thing. Sometimes it was the most thrilling programming available on our black and white tube.

I’m not risking any surprises this year. I’m specifically asking every magical being who will listen for an end to the Covid pandemic and reunions with friends, family, and co-workers I desperately miss spending time with. I miss so many people that I just can’t even begin to list.

Run the tape of my request. There ain’t no hedging or fetching.

It’s a primal scream.