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The history of the obligatory Santa Claus picture-taking event dates back to the years following the American Revolution.  Our forefathers had a soft spot for the jolly man in red, and while their patriot brethren thought it best to focus on issues like a “Bill of Rights” and “forming a more perfect union”, the head honchos refused to budge on the Santa issue.  So a rare and widely unknown amendment was drafted, requiring parents to haul their little ones to a central location where a local artist would paint portraits of them as they screamed in fear of a large, bearded man questioning their holiday desires.

It seemed a strange and archaic duty at the time, but hey; who’s gonna mess with the forefathers, right?  Over the years, the government’s decree morphed into a Christmas time tradition which many families continue to abide by to this day.  Now I can neither confirm nor deny that any of the above is actually true, but I’m banking on the fact that most of you stopped paying attention early in that first paragraph and aren’t about to go check my facts at this point.

So every year Santa makes a strange business decision by leaving the North Pole at the busiest time of the year to set up shop at malls across the country.  And families like mine make the strange “common sense” decision to brave the crowds under the misguided and assuredly false assumption that this time, everything will go smoothly.

So this past Saturday afternoon, the Chaney clan packed up our caravan as if we were heading west in search of gold, and made the trek to a nearby Santa tour stop.  We’ve been making this annual pilgrimage now for the four years that we’ve been parents.  The goal is always the same; come away with a picture that doesn’t elicit a “Yikes! Delete that before anyone else sees it!” reaction.

We spent the car ride prepping Iz and The Jakester in hopes of finally nailing the elusive image.  We talked up the big man as if we were a PR firm hired by elves.  We even practiced multiple lap-sitting scenarios depending upon how mall personnel were directing kids in and out of Santa’s “village”.  I took on the role of a slimmed down St. Nick as I peppered them with questions like “What would you like for Christmas little girl?” and “What can Santa bring you little boy?”, in an effort to keep them from freezing up in the moment.

Upon our arrival, we made haste to the already lengthy line as if we were late for a flight.  There we waited, along with hordes of equally nervous parents and their soon-to-be-weeping children, all thinking the same thing; we got this.

The lights and decorations strewn about the building like the holiday equivalent of a frat party’s aftermath were enough to distract the kids from their impending engagement with one Mr. Claus.  As we inched closer and closer to the front of the line, we continued to rain down compliments about the big guy, just hoping that this would be our moment to shine.  And suddenly it was here; the 6’3″ I’d-rather-be-anywhere-but-here “elf” waived us over and it was go time.

As Jen walked the kids towards Santa, the “elf” asked if I would be purchasing any of their $879 photo packages.  In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have laughed in his face, but what’s done is done, right?  Once it was clear that our money would not be hitting their bottom line, we were rushed through the photo-op like a cheap car wash.  Perhaps the fast paced encounter was a blessing though, as our kids were only in the hands of the Kringle for mere moments; lessening the chances for a complete and total meltdown.

When all was said and done and the dust cleared, I took a look at what timeless images I had captured in the flurry of shutter clicks.  The best of the best is below…you be the judge; delete or not?  Either way, another wonderful, crazy, gut-wrenching, nerve-fraying, visit with Santa is in the books.  Thanks forefathers; you nailed it!

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