Must Be Santa [ 2003-12-15, 12:48 a.m. ]

A FaLaLaLaLas Collaberative Entry!

Christmas, 1988

Every year my parents struggled with what to give my grandmothers as Christmas gifts. My paternal grandmother, Rose, was particularly hard to shop for as she already had everything, shopped constantly, and possessed impeccable taste. This year, however, my parents had had a brainstorm. This year they came up with an idea original, timely, fun and unique.

So on a Saturday morning in early December, my mom picked me up from my friend Kristin’s house, where I had spent the previous night. She had instructed me to be ready promptly at 11:00 a.m., to wear a dark green turtleneck, and to “be prepared.” At 13, I was already given to sulking and generally dreading all family responsibilities, and this Saturday was no different. I had wanted to spend the day watching MTV with Kristin, whose house was huge and stocked with good food. Instead, I rolled my eyes at Kristin as my mother’s Volkswagon Vanagon pulled into the driveway. From the living room I could see all three of my younger brothers in the van, each staring out the window with a matching sulk on his face. I climbed into the back of the van (which was humiliating on its own, but my brother J had already “called” the front seat, and was not moving for my petulant teenage self). The boys were also wearing turtlenecks, N in red, M and J in green like me. I slumped in the back of the van, hoping for a last-minute change of plans, a respite or pardon. No such luck.

We pulled into the Sunvalley Mall parking lot and exited the van, walking through JC Penny’s into the main entrance to the mall. The Orange Julius stand facing JC Penny’s was generally acknowledged as the standard ‘meeting spot’ at the mall, and it was packed with people. I slouched, afraid someone from my high school would spot me as we reached our destination:

Be-A-Star.

There, next to Prints Plus and across from Things Remembered was the local make-your-own-video store, Be-A-Star. My mother walked the four of us into the neon pink boutique (which was open to the mall – doorless - so that passers-by could watch the wannabes making video magic on the dual TVs set into the walls. I stood grumpily by as my mother checked us in for our appointment. M and J argued listlessly, while N – only 5 years old - looked on, oblivious. The TVs were showing the video of a group of three friends who’d just finished recording their version of “Walk Like An Egytian,” and the girls were giggling, laughing and tossing their long permed hair over their shoulders. I was so jealous of them I could taste it. Finally, it was our turn.

We were shuffled “back stage” where makeup was applied – makeup intended to make us stand out on camera – something I was actually quite excited about. It turned out, however, to be mostly orange – orange eye shadow, orange blush, orange lipstick – “It’s best for on-screen,” we were assured. The Be-A-Star director led us into the booth, and stuck a Santa hat on my head, gave M a tambourine and handed some jingle bells to N. He sat us on some stools, and suggested that we get comfortable and have fun. We were given one practice run-through, then filming started.

The saccharine tune began playing, and the four of us kind of collectively shrugged, sighed, and started singing:

“Who's got a beard that's long and white

Santa's got a beard that's long and white

Who comes around on a special night

Santa comes around on a special night

Special Night, beard that's white

Must be Santa

Must be Santa

Must be Santa, Santa Claus"

We sang through the first three verses adequately, remembering most words and kind of swaying back and forth to the music. By the fourth verse, none of us knew any words, and I kept nudging N to ring his jingle bells louder. We smiled and swayed, and eventually the director took mercy on us and stopped taping. We filed back out into the waiting area while they prepared our tape. I asked for something with which to remove the orange makeup, but was given just a sympathetic, “Sorry,” in reply. I tried to wipe off as much as I could with a tissue, but the greasy orange eye shadow would not budge. Finally, the director came to the counter, tape in hand. Before handing it to my mother, he pointed to the big display TVs. “We’ve got to have the world premier of your video first!” he said.

And premier it he did – on the two giant screens my brothers and I bobbled uncomfortably to arguably one of the stupidest Christmas songs ever written. I looked awkward and gloomy, M and J looked like boys about to burst out laughing, and little N just looked shell-shocked, ringing his bells every now and then and rocking back and forth on his stool. Be-A-Star had added in some of their top-notch special effects, so that periodically, our faces would become pixilated and swirl around the screen, or freeze-frame and go to a split-screen. The other people waiting their turn at Be-A-Star were staring at the screens and at us quizzically, confusedly. Some with pity, in fact. In a year that was full of awkwardness and embarrassing moments, I felt as if nothing had ever sucked worse than that moment at the Be-A-Star.

Eventually we were able to leave the mall, and a few weeks after that, my grandmother was truly delighted with her gift. I excused myself to the bathroom every time she wanted to replay the video that Christmas, and before long, it was retired to the dusty basket where she kept old movies. Forgotten but for the shudder that runs through my body whenever I even think of the song, “Must Be Santa.”

Christmas, 1998

My parents and brothers all came to visit me for Christmas, and were staying with my close (and very generous) friends C and Jay, who had a big house on a lake in Northern New Jersey. It had been a rough year – my youngest brother N had strayed, encountered some demons of his own and hadn’t yet found his way back to us. My grandmother Rose was dying – would pass away 2 months later, on Valentine’s Day, in fact – and the trip to New York was a welcome break for everyone. On Christmas Eve my parents cooked in tandem with C and Jay, and we all sat around drinking champagne and hot chocolate. We ate and laughed and told stories. We popped open the party crackers set at our plates and wore the paper crowns all through dinner. After we ate, more champagne was opened and we all changed into pajamas to exchange gifts around the fire. Jay and C’s 13-foot tree reached up above us, and lake outside glimmered through the windows. Gifts were opened, and just as we all started to wind down, my parents disappeared downstairs with Jay and C. A few minutes later, they called my brothers and me down. “One last thing,” they said. C reached for the remote control, and suddenly, on their television, there in New Jersey, a million miles from my teenage self, was the Be-A-Star video, in all its kitschy wonder and painfully adolescent awkwardness.

My brothers and I were shell-shocked, then spent the next half-hour laughing harder than any four people have ever laughed since time began. I was weeping and laughing, watching us pathetically muster through “Must Be Santa,” 10 years later. However ill-conceived it may have initially seemed, my mother really did succeed in creating the greatest Christmas present ever.

Must Be Santa

(Moore-Fredericks)

Who's got a beard that's long and white

Santa's got a beard that's long and white

Who comes around on a special night

Santa comes around on a special night

Special Night, beard that's white

Must be Santa

Must be Santa

Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Who wears boots and a suit of red

Santa wears boots and a suit of red

Who wears a long cap on his head

Santa wears a long cap on his head

Cap on head, suit that's red

Special night, beard that's white

Must be Santa

Must be Santa

Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Who's got a big red cherry nose

Santa's got a big red cherry nose

Who laughs this way HO HO HO

Santa laughs this way HO HO HO

HO HO HO, cherry nose

Cap on head, suit that's red

Special night, beard that's white

Must be Santa

Must be Santa

Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Who very soon will come our way

Santa very soon will come our way

Eight little reindeer pull his sleigh

Santa's little reindeer pull his sleigh

Reindeer sleigh, come our way

HO HO HO, cherry nose

Cap on head, suit that's red

Special night, beard that's white

Must be Santa

Must be Santa

Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen,

Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen,

Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen

Reindeer sleigh, come our way

HO HO HO, cherry nose

Cap on head, suit that's red

Special night, beard that's white

Must be Santa

Must be Santa

Must be Santa, Santa Claus

All lyrics are the property and copyright of their respective owners. All lyrics are provided for educational purposes and personal use only.

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