One elf’s adventures with Santa Claus’ little visitors (at Kitsap Mall)

Bremerton Patriot Staff Writer Rachel Brant (left), playing the role of an elf, holds 11-month-old Alexis Spencer’s hand as the baby’s dad, Joe Spencer, brings her to Santa Claus to have her picture taken with St. Nick at Kitsap Mall.  - Jesse Beals/staff photo
Bremerton Patriot Staff Writer Rachel Brant (left), playing the role of an elf, holds 11-month-old Alexis Spencer’s hand as the baby’s dad, Joe Spencer, brings her to Santa Claus to have her picture taken with St. Nick at Kitsap Mall.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/staff photo

Christmas 1986.

It was my little sister’s first time meeting Santa Claus. I, the seasoned pro, met him once before.

My mom plopped us down on St. Nick’s knees and Sarah, my sister, started crying and screaming.

Then, an elf snapped the photo and preserved that memory forever — Sarah crying and me sitting beside her looking freaked out because my sister was screaming at the top of her lungs.

I recently spent an afternoon creating those priceless memories with the Worldwide Photography crew at Kitsap Mall.

Elf training 101

Before I could set foot inside Santa’s wonderland at the mall, I needed proper training. After all, some elves have been helping the big guy for years and I needed to catch up.

I watched a 45-minute online presentation on the do’s and don’ts of being one of Santa’s helpers and took a 20-question test. I scored an 85 percent and went to Kitsap Mall to put my training to work.

I donned a green “I’m Santa Approved” apron, grabbed an elf name badge and got to work preparing children to meet the one, the only Santa Claus.

Excitement, excitement, excitement

I stood at the entrance to Santa’s wonderland greeting parents and children when they came to visit the big guy. Some kids wore their nicest outfits, others wore their everyday school clothes. Big kids, little kids, tiny babies, adults and even a dog showed up to see Santa. It was great fun watching the little ones jump up and down to see St. Nick.

Most, if not all of the kids, recited over and over what they planned to tell Santa they wanted for Christmas. Some wanted toy motorcycles, others wanted dolls. Their excitement was contagious. I wasn’t particularly pumped at first, but the children’s energy rubbed off and I found myself getting fired up too.

The big moment

As I whisked child after child over to meet Santa, I found myself quietly hoping their moment with him was just as magical as they dreamed it would be. For some kids, you could see it on their faces that their visit with St. Nick was great. For others, let’s just say it went downhill quickly.

Many, many babies did not like sitting on Santa’s knee. Baby after baby would be perfectly happy until mom or dad placed him or her on Santa’s knee. Then the screaming and crying started.

“Most babies do scream with Santa. I think it is all of that white, bushy hair,” my mom, Pam Jenkins, said.

The babies weren’t just crying, but screaming at the top of their lungs. No matter what mom, dad or the photographer elf did, the hysterical babies would not smile for a photo.

One girl, I’m guessing 4 or 5 years old, did not want to see Santa. She clung to her mother, but mom pried her away and sat her on Santa’s knee. She cried, kicked and screamed while her brother sat on the opposite knee smiling and enjoying his visit.

“Can you smile for me?” the photographer elf asked her.

The girl shook her head and kept kicking.

A lot of the children clammed up when they met Santa. They forgot what they wanted for Christmas, would not look him in the eye and the most boisterous children suddenly became shy.

But I could tell they still enjoyed their time with Santa.

The magic of Christmas

While listening to parents grumble about the expensive photos wasn’t fun, the children made my elf experience great. I may not be that old, but I still feel like I’ve forgotten how magical Christmas time really is. The kids quickly reminded me how great the holiday season can be.

The most memorable event from my time as an elf makes me smile just thinking about it. A 6-year-old boy and his 4-year-old brother jumped up and down at the front of the line waiting to see Santa.

“You’re one of Santa’s elves,” the 6-year-old said to me.

“I am,” I replied.

He went on to say the elves have pointy ears and his mother and I told him not all elves have pointy ears.

I then asked him how old he was. He said he would be turning 7 soon.

“When’s your birthday?” I asked.

“Dec. 23, two days before Christmas,” he said. “I bet Santa already told you that.”

Nothing beats the magic of the holidays.

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