Santa lands at the Truckee airport
There was excitement in the Tahoe Truckee Senior’s Center community room as Michele Johnston and Ellen Solli were placing afghans and teddy bears, which had been brought from home to add the final touches for the party. I heard one senior say “Today the children are coming!”
Close to the lit Christmas tree, a bench had been prepared for the guests of honor, Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus! At 11:59 a.m., I stood with my daughter at the Truckee Tahoe Airport. I could see that the limousine that Ron Perlman, owner of Lake Tahoe Limousine, had offered for our use was ready. At noon, Mr. and Mrs. Claus were to meet with Rob Lober, one of the Flying Doctor pilots.
I had one moment that lasted less than a second, wondering if everything was actually going to fall into place. It all started in November when I walked into the Truckee Tahoe Seniors Council’s office with an idea. Tanya Schnitzius instantly joined in the enthusiasm for the planned project.
Families from the Little Rascal’s Playsckool, families from the Truckee State Preschool and families from the community were all a part of the newly formed “Club Amigitos.” We meet once a week at the KidZone. The emphasis is for families to enjoy different cultures and languages. There is such enthusiasm for helping our children join a bilingual world.
As a club we wanted to unite and make the Christmas season especially special for the senior citizens of our community. The plan: To have all the families participate in a tamale sale. Many of the families donated the supplies needed. Many families helped in getting orders for 150 dozen tamales. Families met to do the assembling and cooking. Many families enjoyed eating the homemade tamales.
In three weeks, our goal had been met. I think everyone felt really good about having earned the money to present the seniors with a gift, so we needed a party. The children at the Truckee State Preschool placed a long-distance phone call to invite Mr. and Mrs. Claus to the party. To our delight the answer was “Yes!” At KidZone Little Rascal’s parents made a call to Ron Perlman. We needed transportation from the airport to the senior center. Ron said “Yes!”
Later we had to make another call to him. Could he help bring some of the families who did not have rides to the party? Once again, this wonderfully generous man said “Yes!”
The last call was to Rob Lober. Mr. and Mrs. Claus also needed transportation, especially since they do not know the area during the daytime. Rob, one of the nicest men you will ever meet, included a scenic flight so Mr. and Mrs. Claus could really see the beauty of our area after a good snow. The seniors, led by Carol Dela Rosa, had wrapped roughly 80 books, some of which had been donated by Dianne Fix and the Church of the Mountains Preschool, as well as the Truckee Rotary Club.
It all worked out, and that second of worry left as quickly as it came.
Rob, Mr. and Mrs. Claus were in the air. Ron was adding a completely unexpected thrill to the stranded families as they began to load into the limo and arrive safely at the airport just in time to join nearly 150 excited parents and children with cameras in hand. The plane flew a low pass over the runway. Santa said that as he looked out his window all he could see was a big group of excited people jumping up and down.
The plane landed and taxied toward the terminal where we were waiting. Pretty soon you could make out a white beard and the color red. Mr. and Mrs. Claus had arrived. Children stood in line waiting for Mr. and Mrs. Claus to get into the limo. Soon the remaining seats were filled with children. A parade of cars followed to the senior center.
The children had practiced three songs to sing to their parents. Some of the children were wearing angel wings, while others shepherd’s costumes. I had envisioned the children in an orderly fashion turning and “performing” to the flashing cameras of the proud parents. As it is more often than not, it takes adults a little longer to catch on to what is really happening. How often do children get to “hang out” with Santa, much less sing their little hearts out to him? The children sang to Mr. and Mrs. Claus. I watched as parents took turns singing. One song was bilingual. We could all join in. One was a traditional Jewish song, and one was a traditional Spanish song. It was beautiful.
Santa had the last say, as he helped to sing “Santa’s Coming to Town.” Carl Dela Rosa joined Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus on the bench as Alexis Lopez, Sean Gilboy and Bryce Castillo gave Santa cookies and the seniors our $1,500 gift. The parents from Little Rascals generously provided cookies from their own cultural backgrounds. We had promised Santa cookies and milk, but the poor guy was too busy; he never got a milk and cookie break. Each child had his or her moment on his lap. Pictures were taken, the kind that come out every year, regardless if our children’s ages. Outside Dirk and Vicky Hooser organized the pi-ata.
“It’s Santa’s turn”, screamed the children.
Oh, how I wish I could just for a moment see things through the eyes of a three year old. Living in the moment, not questioning but feeling the magic of goodness. It was a great joy that we united as a group to give to the seniors in our community. It was with great joy that we, in turn, received from each and every person who responded with a “yes” for our children and families. People took me aside and asked me confidentially, “Who is it that dressed up as Santa? He and Mrs. Claus were the most real Mr. Claus and Mrs. Claus we have ever seen!”
“They were perfect!” I replied. “I don’t know why we are so special. We have just spent a wonderful afternoon ‘hanging out’ with Mr. and Mrs. Claus! It’s just the way things happen in Truckee!”
Three-year-old-at-heart Susan Bruno is executive director of Truckee State Preschool.
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