She's one of Santa's Christmas angels for sure.
Growing up in North Carolina my sisters and I never missed the Christmas celebrations in our country church. The lighted Christmas tree filled the sanctuary with a piney scent, and we sat awed by the pageant about Jesus’ birth.
But the real excitement came after we sang carols: Santa himself arrived to hand out simple little presents, one for each and every child.
Memories of those old Christmases rushed back to me when I got a very interesting job offer from my friend Cliff Snider. He’s a professional Santa and he asked if I’d be interested in sewing Santa suits for him!
I’d been sewing and making outfits for my dolls and cats since I was a young girl. I taught others to sew as a Home Economics teacher in Moore County, North Carolina. But sewing a Santa suit was nothing I’d ever tried.
“It should be easy,” I said. “Easy and fun.” I soon found out I was wrong about that first part, at least. It was the most challenging project I’d ever attempted. Cliff preferred his suits made out of a thick, plush velvet that fought with my machine.
“I’ll have to hand baste it,” I told him over the phone from my workroom. “It might take a little longer than I expected.”
Next I battled with the furry white trim. The suit fabric was too hard; this material was too soft. I felt like Goldilocks!
I was nervous the first time Cliff came over for a fitting. Santa himself couldn’t have been more particular about his clothing. Cliff stood in front of the mirror. He turned this way and that, checking every stitch. Then he let out a chuckle worthy of Saint Nick. “Perfect!” he said. “Best I’ve ever had!”
That was the beginning of our partnership. Since he played Santa in so many different venues, he always needed new suits. Every time I mastered one type of suit Cliff came up with a new challenge.
“I saw this in a shop,” he announced one day, clearing the scissors and threads from my worktable. He spread out a roll of red upholstery fabric embossed with ornate scrolls. Upholstery fabric!
I lifted the edge of it for a closer look. It was so heavy it would break the needle on my machine! Then I noticed the details on the scrolls.
“They look like fancy letters S and C,” I said.
“That’s why I had to have it!” said Cliff. “I have something special in mind for this suit.” He pulled a tiny red book out of his bag. “Can you make me a pocket for this? Someplace I can easily get to it in costume.”
“Definitely,” I said. In my head I could already see where the pocket would go. “What’s it for?”
“I want to write down the names of the boys and girls who come to see me, so I can pray for them later.”
Pray for them? I’d never thought of Santa praying for children. I’d associated Santas from my childhood with presents, not prayers.
As I began work on a neat little pocket inside the scrolled jacket, other Santa memories came back. I remembered how warm and kind our church Santa was. He knew what grade I was in at school, knew my teacher, knew my family and friends.
It meant so much to me that he cared about my life. Why wouldn’t he have prayed for me too? When I finished the pocket I embroidered words on it in gold thread: “Good Little Boys and Girls.” Santa would know them all by name, I thought.
“You must get asked for just about every toy there is,” I told Cliff as he tried on the suit.
“Just about,” he agreed. “But the most important requests are the ones I can’t fill. Those are the ones that go in the book.”
“What sort of requests can’t Santa fill?” I asked. “You mean from the children asking for pet elephants and rocket ships?”
“No, I’m talking about the things you can’t buy,” said Cliff. “Like lonely kids who want to make friends. Or kids who need help getting through their parents’ divorce. Or those who’ve lost someone they love.”
I’d never thought kids would ask Santa about things like that. But then, who better to share those secrets with than Santa?
After Cliff left, I gave the prayer pocket a final once-over. Yes, every stitch did have to be just so. In a way I was sewing for Santa himself. And Santa’s job went far beyond passing out gifts. I get to be part of that, I thought as I turned off the light in my workroom that night. What a blessing!
Cliff and I have made a lot of special suits over the years. After the 9/11 tragedy I made him a beautiful red-white-and-blue suit with embroidered stars. Another suit featured large holly leaves with crystal “berries” in the center of each one.
My favorite suit might be the one I made out of a “crazy quilt” done by Cliff’s own grandmother. I was so worried I’d make a mistake and ruin a family heirloom. So as I sewed I began to pray. I thanked God for Cliff and all the good he did for the children he met.
Pretty soon praying for Cliff became a habit as I sewed. If Santa was going to pray for all those children, someone ought to be praying for Santa too. Since I met Cliff, I guess my seamstress’ job went far beyond sewing!
Sometimes I watch Cliff with the children, wearing the clothes I’ve made. I like to think he’s wearing my prayers too, sewn right into the fabric. No one would ever mistake me for an elf, but I am Santa’s helper. Together we’re making the world a better place. One Santa suit, one child, one prayer at a time.