Confessions of a Clausophobic
Laura Hinds reflects on growing up in Danvers.
There are no pictures of me sitting on Santa Claus’ lap. In fact, there are no pictures of me within sight of Santa Claus. I wanted no part of that experience from the time I could speak my mind about the idea of sitting on the lap of a stranger dressed in red.
I’m not sure why I have Clausophobia, perhaps I was born with it. Or, it could be a situational disorder developed after the pictures of me as a bald baby dressed in a Santa Suit, hat and all.
Oh sure, my parents brought me to stores that had kids in line just waiting to meet the jolly old elf. They tried repeatedly over the years. I’m sure my sister dragged took me to see Santa Claus too. If you know me now, you know that I am stubborn. Well let me tell you, I’ve mellowed. I was much more stubborn as a child, and if I wanted nothing to do with Santa Claus there was no way in the world anyone was going to make me join in the festivities.
As I got a bit older, I was quite content to thumb through the Sears Christmas Catalog aka the Wish Book, and make my list for this Santa Claus. I figured he could read, and didn’t need to see me in person to get my wish list. In fact, I was brave enough to go to the North Shore Shopping Center to deliver it. Just not to him. The clerk at the customer service desk in Sears where you placed your orders was good enough for me. I was confident that Sears had a direct line to the North Pole. I would not, under any circumstances, however, go to Jordan Marsh where it was said the one “real” Santa Claus appeared each December.
We’d stop and see the giant Nutcracker Soldiers and other holiday decorations outside the shopping center. In those days, the shopping center was not an enclosed mall, and it was always very windy and cold. There was the one center aisle; open air between stores where the wind whipped so fast that you were certain you’d be blown away. Now, I’m not sure if I’m remembering something real or if this is from my imagination or a dream: was there a nativity with live animals outside the North Shore Shopping Center in the late 60’s or early 70’s? Does anyone know?
I managed to avoid Santa Claus easily enough. I had good “avoidance skills” honed by years of avoiding school. In my twenties, I managed to tag along when our niece, Kate, wanted to see Santa. I’d hang back from the crowd and let my husband or sister-in-law take her to sit on Santa’s lap. It was as close as I wanted to get.
Fast forward about ten years: I was in my early thirties and my mother had taken seriously ill that December. She was in Beverly Hospital and the prognosis was not good. I decided to take a ride to clear my head and get away from the stress one Sunday morning. rode up to Georgetown, to a nursery with the idea of buying a nice poinsettia for mom’s hospital room. The nursery was rather quiet, having just opened. There were a few other customers and some lovely plants. There was also a surprise that I had not anticipated.
Santa Claus himself, in the flesh, stood less than a foot away from me. He caught my eye and I caught his. The old Clausophobia kicked in and I nearly had a panic attack. He smiled though, and I had an idea. I approached Santa and spilled my guts about having been terrified of him my whole life. When I related that I’d never once asked Santa for anything directly, he smiled and said, “Don’t you think it’s about time?” He was right, and I knew what I wanted to ask for more than anything.
Within 48 hours, mom was not only out of the woods, she was declared well enough to come home. I think Santa answered my wishes by putting out the word to a power even higher than he was.