19 Desember 2010

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Christmas is a rite that is hard to survive

The Christmas party is in full swing. I glance at my list. “The first lucky child to meet Santa will be Min-Min, aged three,” I announce.
A woman steps out of the crowd, hands her screaming toddler to me, and then retreats to take a photo. I attempt to hand the shrieking, kicking, wriggling child to the huge, scary, bearded, red-suited man seated nearby. Min-Min, crazed with fear, turns into a 12-kilogram Mike Tyson. “Ha ha ha!” Santa and I chuckle good-naturedly as she lets out a 4,000-decibel scream which bursts our eardrums. “How charming!” I say as she bites through the antibrachial vein in my wrist. “How adorable,” we chant as she rips off Santa’s beard and lands a roundhouse kick on my genitalia, causing me to temporarily blackout.
Regaining consciousness and fashioning a quick tourniquet from tinsel to stem the blood loss, I look down at my list of children. One down, 42 to go.
Yes, it’s Christmas. People misunderstand this season. It’s really a very challenging growing-up experience for all concerned, children and adults.
Two days later, your bandaged narrator is playing the role of The Storyteller in a theater production of The Snowman. At this event, I am on stage, a safe distance from a sea of two-legged piranhas, i.e. the children.
At the end of the show, I duly point to the back of the theater and say: “Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, we have a visitor!” Santa Claus bursts through the door at the back of the auditorium. The plan was for the orchestra to strike up a verse or two of Sleigh Ride as Santa strides down the aisle to join us on stage, making a short but witty speech (“Ho ho ho”).
But as soon as Santa appears, a scream of excitement rises from the children. These kids are older and smarter than the earlier crowd and know they have an advantage in terms of mass. They climb out of their seats and mob him. Dozens, then scores of children besiege him, demanding gifts with menaces.
Santa disappears entirely underneath hundreds of tiny legs.
The orchestra manfully continues to play extra verses of Sleigh Ride. Minutes pass. Has Santa been crushed to death by several tons of sticky-fingered, snot-encrusted young flesh? I remove my Santa hat. What a way to go.
As the orchestra played the 95th repeat of Sleigh Ride, I was gripped by a kind of madness, or perhaps it was the Christmas spirit (a pint of eggnog consumed earlier). Leaping off the stage, I ran up the aisle and waded into the shoulder-deep pile of squirming children. Somehow I managed to clear a space for Santa to make it to the front without killing anybody.
A musician whispers to me as I get back onto the stage: “Well done. I thought Santa was dead.” I shake my head: “Now you know why he wears all that padding.”
In the foyer afterwards, I autographed a few programs. But then I saw Min-Min and her entire kindergarten class approaching. They were no longer scared, which made them more dangerous than ever. I flee.  My medical insurance has suffered enough this season. Happy Christmas.

Opini The Jakarta Pos 20 Desember 2010