Four Decembers ago after working the overnight shift for the morning news, I stumbled into a T.J. Maxx in West Midtown. That's where I saw it – red, fuzzy and on sale. Maybe it was the lack of sleep influencing my decisions, but a Santa suit just seemed like something that might come in handy one day.
Next came the idea of surprising my nephews and niece while wearing it. I can't blame the delirium on this, as I patiently waited until Christmas Eve for optimal Claus-effect.
After our family dinner, I hurried to their Decatur home to be caught climbing the chimney when they arrived.
Back then, they were six, four, and two years old. I really thought they fell for it… until Christmas day when two-year-old Nola said "Is Uncle wearing the Santa suit today?"
I never confessed.
And I kept dressing as Santa, year after year. It even became a bit of a tradition at work, as I would enter the newsroom to a lot of side-eye and a few photo requests at the beginning of my news shift on Christmas Eve.
This year's Santa scenario involved surprising the kids from their backyard. Santa was caught in town a few days early, scouting out the perfect place to fill stockings. Now at ages ten, eight and six, I thought it would be useful to have a screened porch-worth of distance to keep my cover.
Instead of being called out (as Evan did one year by yelling "Hi Uncle!"), something really magical happened… I think they bought it! Or maybe they reached that wise age where they know to play along with adults' outrageous attempts to please them.
Either way, for the first time they didn't mention uncle in the suit. They just stared in awe. Santa was beaming on the inside.
I don't know when I'll stop this tradition, if ever. It brings me more Christmas joy than almost anything.
And it makes me appreciate the sleep-deprived decision to go ahead and buy that red suit.