The Great Pretender

Almost 6 years ago, a soon to become good friend called, wanting to set up a local playgroup for children and moms to play in English once a week so our kids could experience English outside their homes. I had a few kids at the right age for such a group and another on the way and was glad to join. M, N and L enjoyed songs, games and stories with a nice group of people from around the world before they were immersed in the Japanese education system. The founder's children have also graduated the group, but members with younger children are keeping the group running so successfully that there continues to be a waiting list to join(Too many babies and toddlers in the small meeting space detracts from the fun.).

Thursday afternoon was the annual Christmas party at a small cafe/restaraunt a few stations away from here. I've taken all four children a long time ago, but have missed a few parties because of work and other scheduling problems. I was told alumnae were welcome and I didn't have any classes on Thursday, so I RSVPed for L, N and myself (a room full of babies isn't so exciting for M and J so they opted out.) The organizer called to confirm and ask if I might be able to play Santa for them this year. I happened to have a full Santa suit with a beard and a hat from the local equivalent of the Dollar Shop (Hundred Yen Shop) and I knew that we'd be arriving late so I agreed.

The Santa suit was just big enough to fit over my own clothes and my coat covered most of it so N and L weren't too embarassed as I rode them through the dark, late afternoon back streets to the party on my bicycle. I sent N inside first so the organizer could come outside with the presents she had prepared for all of the children. After a minute or two, I made a big production of peering in the window, looking for kids, and waving in big, slow motion moves when I found a cafe full of them. The children were all young enough to look wonderfully amazed and shyly happy to accept their presents. Some of the older ones even said "Thank you Santa." A few older siblings knew who I was from our playgroup days and were happy to be in on the secret and play along. After about 5 minutes, Santa exited, dramatically waving and excusing himself to get ready for his Christmas Eve gig.

People in the street were a little surprised to see Santa emerge from the small shop and peel his suit, beard and hat off to reveal a tall, blue eyed brunette woman, almost as rare as Santa in that neighborhood. With a wink and a smile I waved, deposited the costume in a paper bag in my bicycle basket and re-entered the shop with a flustered "Hello! Am I late?" to which a few of the older kids replied that I had missed Santa's visit. "Aw man! I've been trying to meet that guy for years now!" They showed me the bags full of goodies Santa had given them and I sat down to enjoy a pleasant dinner of genmai (brown rice) sushi salad, fried chicken, spaghetti with several types of Japanese mushrooms in cream sauce, salad and finally cheesecake and coffee. N and L had a good time with their friends too.