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A former Navy SEAL's mind wanders back to a Christmas about ten years ago, when he became a reluctant Santa.

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A Reluctant Santa

A former Navy SEAL’s mind wanders back to a Christmas about ten years ago, when he became a reluctant Santa.

As this birthday of Christ, comes upon us, my mind has wandered back to a Christmas about ten years ago, when I became a reluctant Santa.

Times for us where good, our sons had been on their own for a number of years and both Judith and I where working doing things we loved.  For me it was as a commercial diver, just a fancy name for a well paid underwater laborer.  The love of my life was working at a very good but over-priced home and garden store.  Rich people could buy anything from an overpriced flowerpot, to having their home completely decorated.

Judith was decorating what was called the Christmas Room.  You could buy one ornament, one of the beautifully decorated trees my wife had done, even have them come to your home and decorate the whole place.  She is one of those people who have an eye for color and space. I have seen her take what looks like a pile of junk to me and turn it in to something beautiful.

My wife is truly, as our youngest son calls her, "an incredible life force".  I get a great amount of pleasure just being around and watching her create.  So a couple days before Christmas, while out riding my motorcycle, I got the urge to stop by her work and watch her make something beautiful.  I was in for a little surprise.

Judith took me by the arm and gave me “the look.”  The look that means I know you won’t let me down, I know you’ll do this just for me. The words went something like, "Honey I didn’t say you would but I told them you might." I knew whatever it was, if she wanted me to do it, I would.  It ‘s a damn good thing for me she doesn’t have an evil mind.  

The problem was Santa had not shown up again and children where waiting.  Would I play Santa?  

This was a high-class store.  They had purchased a very good Santa outfit: It was made of thick red material with a lot of white fur and the padding to make Santa plump.  There was a very life like white wig and beard.  I knew this was not going to be a pleasant afternoon.  There I would be, in a silly red suit, sweating up a storm with a bunch of greedy rich kids sitting on my lap going through an endless list of "I WANTS".

To my amazement I was only right on the sweating up a storm part.  They had Santa’s chair in the corner of the X-mas room and it was hot, hot, hot.  There were twenty-plus decorated trees.  Very pretty but with all the lights kicking off heat. Santa should have been in a bathing suit.  

As it turned out the children gave me a great day.  Not one greedy kid among them.  Every little girl and boy asked me for one gift for themselves.  Most of these kids wanted me to bring gifts for others.  I was really getting into playing Santa.  Every once In awhile, I would see Judith standing off to one side with a big at-a-boy smile on her face.  I do love that smile. You have to earn it: she doesn’t just give it away.

Towards the end of my stint as Santa Clause, I noticed a girl, around thirteen or fourteen standing at the end of the line, holding an old gentleman’s hand.  She was five or six kids back when I first noticed her. She was a nice looking young girl, well dressed but something besides her being in the Santa line just wasn’t right.

I don’t know or care what the politically correct term of the minute is, but she was a teenager with a four or five year old’s mind.  I could see two things as they moved up the line for her to take her turn.  She deeply loved and trusted the older gentleman whose hand she held. To her, I was Santa Clause and it was very important that she speak with me.  

I’m no stranger to stress. I was a Navy SEAL and now a commercial diver since leaving the Teams.  Just trying to do Santa right was stressful enough for me.  Trying to do it right for this little girl had just upped the stress level as high as I care to have it.  It was important that I didn’t mess this one up, for her and me.

When her turn came, the older gentleman helped her on my lap gave me a smile and stepped back.  She started telling me how great I was to do what I did for all the children in the world.  Well, not me: Santa. But for to her, I was the real thing.  She spoke in a shy little girl voice.  An odd contrast to the teenage body sitting on my lap.  She told me she had been a good girl and minded her mummy and daddy and would Santa please bring her a doll.  She didn’t want just any doll, she new just what kind of doll she wanted.

Thank God the older gentleman had stayed close.  I had done my best not to promise anything I wasn’t sure of.  As she was asking for her special doll the older gentleman was smiling and nodding his head up and down.  Well if she trusted him I would.  It made my heart feel good to tell this little girl, the doll would be under the tree.

Well, folks, it was the best Christmas I’ve had since our children where small.  I have thought about it many times and it always gives me a smile.  I do hope it gives you a smile as well.  Merry Christmas!

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Written By

John Carl Roat is currently a working diver, surface air/gas and a saturation supervisor. He was a member of Underwater Demolition Teams 21, UDT 11 and SEAL Team 1. He went to work for Taylor Diving and Salvage the end of 1969 as a tender and broke out at Taylor Diving in 1970. Mr. Roat is the author of â??Oxy-Arc Underwater Burning Classâ?ť, a 90-minute training video and manual, for Oceans Technology. My Green Brothers

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