Usually this time of year, I'm scrambling to get to the North Pole and interview a citizen of this frozen country. Well, I'm still scrambling, but I did make it before Santa had to leave and deliver presents. The difference this year came from a suggestion Santa himself made.
"Pat," he said, "why don't we do something different this Christmas? I know you've had a very sad year what with Jay and his best friend passing away. You may not be in the Ho-Ho-Ho mood so, perhaps, you could sit in on one of my counseling sessions?"
"Counseling sessions? Santa, I didn't realize you had therapists here. In fact, I never would have thought you'd need that type of help."
"You'd be surprised, Pat. In fact, I myself will be counseling a cousin of one of my most reliable reindeer this afternoon. Hector is very upset with his son and needs someone to talk to in confidence. I'm sure he wouldn't mind you sitting in and taking notes."
The next day I found myself sitting in Santa's den with a reindeer who seemed to be in great distress. Hector had three offspring, one just born, one beginning reindeer training classes and one who was not interested at all in flying around the world every year.
Santa: "Well, Hector, have there been in changes with Donny since our last visit?"
Hector: "Not much, Santa. I talked to him about his responsibility to you and his family but it didn't seem to sink in. What's more upsetting is my wife starting to take his side."
Santa: "Oh, Hector, did nothing I say to you last week make a difference? Your son is almost full grown. He has to make a decision about his future on his own. There is nothing in my by-laws that says every single reindeer living in this village has to train for flying duty. Several have gone off on their own. Some were very successful. Others discovered they were indeed born to fly."
Hector: "It just seems as though he would betray all of us if he left the North Pole."
Santa: "Would you rather he stayed here and be miserable the rest of his life? Wouldn't it be best to let him experience the world outside of the Pole boundaries?"
Hector: "But, Santa, I have been grooming him for this his entire life."
Santa: "Yes, you have. But you can't force him into a job he doesn't want. Give the young deer a chance to explore for himself. Besides, he doesn't have to fly. There are plenty of other jobs here for him.
Look at Arnold. He's been training the herd of fliers for 20 years now. He never wanted it for himself. Now he's discovered how much joy comes from helping others.
Then there's Clarence. He did leave the Pole for a few years but returned with an accounting degree. I don't know what I'd do without him now. Materials to make toys don't grow on trees. He has a budget for each department. Now we come out in the black every year."
Hector: "OK, Santa. Maybe you're right. I'll try to listen to Donny's ideas with an open mind from now on. See you next week. Same time?"
Santa: "Of course, and don't forget: You don't want to lose your son by forcing a lifestyle on him that he doesn't want."
After Hector left, Santa and I talked for quite a while. He knew I was hurting. Christmas is a special time for everybody. It will not be the same for my family without Jay. Santa did make one point. He let me know that I would never forget him but, also, that things will get better with time. I certainly hope that will be the case.
Merry Christmas, Columbia County!
Pat Fickle is a Martinez resident.
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