OCHAZUKE: The Magic of Christmas Is Still Out There


Originally published Dec. 23, 2006

Perhaps a true Christmas miracle is something small, almost inconsequential, that might easily be overlooked, unless we allow ourselves to see it.

I’m not a terribly religious fellow, but I’ve always enjoyed the palpable magic that comes with Christmastime. There’s simply an undeniable enchantment about brisk nights versus the warmth of friends and a mug of eggnog, with Vince Guaraldi’s music lulling us into a holiday frame of mind.

We had a little magic this week—a tiny Christmas miracle, if you will—that I humbly submit for the consideration of those doubtful or unsure.

Each Thursday this month, the farmer’s market that’s held next to the Metro Rail station in South Pasadena has featured Santa Claus—or a guy taking on the role—sitting for photos and taking the requests of hopeful children. As this will be the very first Christmas for my son, Mikey, we bundled up the little guy last week and walked him over to see jolly old St. Nick and take some memorable photos.

It’s difficult to gauge who was less impressed, “Santa” or Mikey. The boy stared at the man briefly then lost all interest, while the guy in the red suit couldn’t wait for his shift to end. Still, it was the rite of passage known as First Visit With Santa.

What happened next is the 21st century equivalent of your father fumbling unsuccessfully with his old Kodak Brownie. We had taken our precious photos with my high-tech digital camera and whistled happy carols all the way home. When I connected the device to my computer, I discovered that the memory card inside the camera had failed. Corrupted. Kaput. Kowareta. The once-in-a-lifetime photos were gone.

Oh, dad.

More than my wife—certainly more so than Mikey—I was crushed. I spent the ensuing week trying all manner of data recovery and dirty tricks to somehow coax the images out of that little, two-ounce hunk of silicone and plastic. No luck; the Grinch had snatched them all and he wasn’t giving them back.

When I got off the train in South Pasadena this past Thursday evening, I spotted Santa and his photographer packing up their decorations and equipment as the last farmer’s market before Christmas was closing. I trotted over to ask the cameraman how much longer they’d be available for photos. He said Santa would be gone in two minutes, but he and his camera would be around a bit longer.

With a little bit of reasoning and a lot of begging, I convinced Brad the photographer to stick around while I run home for the boy…and my trusty Santa suit, purchased last year on clearance at Target.

In the storied history of pictures with Santa, this may be the most ragged, thrown-together photo shoot of them all. The cameraman was tired and ready to call it a day, while the new, replacement Santa was frantic and disheveled. And right on cue, the flash units connected to the camera, which had worked just wonderfully all day, suddenly quit. While Mikey gazed in wonderment, Brad and Santa tried desperately to fix it.

Mikey thought the man behind the snowy white beard seemed somewhat familiar.

Then, just as suddenly—some might say, miraculously—everything worked. The equipment functioned properly, Mikey was briefly fooled into believing this guy in red wasn’t his father and we got the pictures. My son’s first visit with Santa was preserved.

After thanking Brad profusely, we rushed home to find all the invaluable photos intact. With a little kindness and a 13-dollar Santa Claus suit, we’d pulled off a little bit of Christmas magic.

So yes, Mikey, there is a Santa Claus. He’s alive and well in all of us who still believe that miracles—even tiny ones—can still happen.

Mikey Hirano Culross is editor of the Rafu’s Arts & Entertainment and Travel sections and can be reached at [email protected] Ochazuke is a staff-written column and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Rafu Shimpo.


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