'It Was Like Being a Rock Star' 

George Turman

Turman is a 49-year-old teacher and folk singer. People kept telling me I looked like Santa Claus … the fat cheeks, the squinty eyes. One year - golly, this must have been 20 years ago now — there was an ad in the paper looking for a Santa at … Azalea Mall. … I got the job and the beard was a mess, the suit was all ragged. I had never done it before, plus it was long, hard hours with lots of constant kids. Being a mall Santa was not a pleasant experience, and it got so hot I had to "feed the reindeer" a whole lot. After a while, I didn't even see the kids anymore, just the blue dots from the cameras. I felt like Jimmy Stewart in "Rear Window." The thing I remember most about that year was that all the girls wanted My Little Pony, and the Iranian hostage situation was going on. One little girl sat on my knee and said she just wanted the hostages to come home, and that touched me. That's what it's all about. … It takes about half an hour to get dressed. First you have to learn how to put the suit on in the proper order. Pants first, then the boot covers over the shoes, and then I usually start working on the beard. I go to extremes with the gum spirit to make it look like it's not glued on. I get that on real good, put the pillow under my T-shirt, get it positioned right, then the coat, the top hair, the hat, gloves and glasses, and then you make sure the jingle bells are in hand, that nothing's coming apart, and wait for the cue. I start with a loud "Ho ho ho," but it's hard to keep that up. One time at Atlee High School, I entered the auditorium from the back and was supposed to work my way to the stage. Seven hundred kids were screaming, and it was like being a rock star. I was waving to people in the balcony and running around. … And by the time I got to the stage I was so out of breath I couldn't say anything, and I was supposed to sing a song. That year I learned a big lesson: Don't be quite so enthusiastic. One time a couple of years ago, a little 7-year-old boy sat on my lap. I asked if he'd been good and what he wanted for Christmas, and he said bare-naked ladies. My jaw just dropped. I didn't know what he was talking about. His parents said it was a CD. I thought we were going to have a problem there. … When my daughters were around that checking-it-out-real-good age, and kids were saying, "Your parents are really Santa Claus," the question finally came to me. I could say, "Well, yes I am Santa, let me show you." They watched me put the suit on and become Santa before their very eyes. That was real sweet. It sorta took that pain of disappointment away from them. Then they became my elves. ... It's so cool to see all these expressions, the excitement in the faces of these kids and their parents, and to really see how nice most kids are, not selfish and wanting this and that. They just like being with their families and having a good time. To be a real part in the imagination of a child is

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