Maybe it's because I asked how I could help at church, and was drafted for the Christmas program. No one can remain a Grinch when they are confronted with big-eyed happy little kids.
Maybe it's because a few more total strangers have been returning my smiles and waves. Maybe it's because so many decorations light up the night in Colly township that the dark sky is starting to resemble those of New York City or Clarkton or some other big town.
Maybe it's because I received a sternly worded warning from someone I always interview during the Christmas season, a certain round fellow in red who advised me to adjust my attitude, or he wouldn't even leave me a lump of coal.
Anyway, I have decided to give up, and pack away my annual holiday snarl. Like the grind wheel attacked by a thousand cats, I have been worn down, a lick and a Christmas carol at a time.
Of course, I have a self-serving reason for finally becoming all Christmasy. This way, I can grumble about tacky decorations, false joviality, and over-marketing. I get the best of both worlds-I can retain my status as curmudgeon and still wear my Santa Claus hat.
Oh yes, the hat.
Miss Sylvia and Miss Kristy, our Office Momma and Office Elf (respectively), presented me with my new Santa hat the other day. I've mentioned the Office Elf before, when she started her holiday attacks on Yours Truly back around the end of summer.
I even wore my new Santa hat for a few minutes, since I have no desire to upset two such important women in my life.
But for now, said hat hangs on the coat rack in the newsroom, mocking me every time I swing my all-season fedora to its usual hanging place.
When I glanced up there this morning though, I was reminded of my brief, sorry career as a Santa Claus.
Through some machinations I never can recall in detail, I came to possess, many years ago, an elderly Santa suit. Coming off a flush summer of mowing grass and a fall rife with leaves falling on those same lawns, I needed to make some extra dollars, since college was turning out to be far more expensive than anyone ever suggested.
Expensive, and expansive.
The famous "Freshman Fifteen"-those extra pounds gained by many young people on starting college-was more like a Freshman Forty for me. By November, I was stocky. By December, I was plain ol' fat.
Then I had an inspiration: I was overweight, I already had a beard, I had a Santa suit, and I needed money.
Presto, instant Santa Claus. With a little advertising, I had more gigs than I could keep up with.
And as I've discovered in the years since, there's much, much more to being Saint Nick than the red suit and the belly rolling like a bowlful of jelly.
A friend asked me to play Santa at his church's children program. I had planned to be a kind of modern Santa, since my beard (back then) was still black, and I had no access to nor any desire to dye it white.
Still, Paul thought a white-bearded Santa would go over better, so he arranged to borrow one from one of the church's wise men (although he may actually have been a shepherd).
The beard wasn't designed for extended wear, and by the time I tied it over my ears, the lower edge was getting a little ragged. Then he decided I needed a pillow, too, since my natural rotundity wasn't quite jolly enough.
Then came an evening which probably scarred several small children and not a few adults for life.
My Santa trousers ripped coming down the stairs, and I spent several minutes of my grand entrance ho-ho-ho-ing in a booming voice whilst desperately trying to pull a door obviously marked "PUSH." As I tumbled through the door, my backup belly fell halfway out the inseam of my ripped trousers.
Reflecting back on that evening now, I shouldn't be surprised that none of the children-not a one-came forward when I called their names and offered them gifts. Several shrank back when I tottered forward and handed the gifts to their parents.
A malfunctioning carburetor a few days later prevented me from reaching another gig. A professional Santa's helper (with a real beard) once told me he never worried about breaking down on the side of the road, since someone would always stop to help Santa.
And I'm sure they will-if Santa doesn't look like an axe murderer in elf's clothes. Still, the suit was warm until I finally flagged down a policeman, who I think was actually planning to take me in at first.
I'm not sure what happened to that Santa suit, but for a few years I wore it whilst spending Christmas Eve with my brother at his service station by the Interstate. At the now-defunct Holiday Inn Gulf, the Santa suit was a hit.
Little kids stuck with traveling on Christmas Eve were always reassured to know Santa did, indeed, have helpers everywhere.
When I gave an apple to a fellow who looked lost and lonely and tortured in his soul, he actually smiled like I don't think he'd smiled in a while.
When Santa Claus checked the oil and air pressure for an elderly couple headed off on some intense, interstate errand at 1 a.m. on Christmas Day, I thought the lady would cry. Her husband did shake my hand and say thanks for giving them a bright moment on a sad night.
So I guess there were a few advantages to having a Santa suit, and getting into the spirit early. It'll still be a few weeks, though, before the Santa hat replaces my daily fedora.
Just because I've given in to the Christmas spirit doesn't mean I'm that merry yet.