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The Little Elf That Couldn’t

Samantha Yaffe’s opinionated view of motherhood with allergies.


I never post anything on my Facebook wall. Never had a good reason to move past my inherent voyeurism.

But on the morning of this year’s Santa Claus Parade in Toronto – the 106th seasonal dose of pre-Christmas spirit in the city – I couldn’t resist telling my random little Faceworld about my shining little elf.

What forward-thinking Jewish mother could hold back sharing the irony and sweetness of her edgy, third-grade super-athlete missing his basketball game to play Santa’s helper and spread the Christmas cheer in a sparkly red and gold costume, topped with a cap and bell? Priceless. Right?

I thought so, but turns out my elfin 8-year-old saw no humour in what he eagerly signed up to do a year earlier, and what I ultimately moved mountains for him to do safely – in the allergy sense of the word – because I wanted to believe his change of heart was just last-minute jitters. After all it was Lucas, not me, who had been counting down the years to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.

Yup, my father, my very Jewish, very philanthropic father, has been a clown in the Santa Claus Parade for 20 years. He, like a select group of other disguised do-gooders ­­– including some of Canada’s most prominent businessmen – actually pay to play. Believing in Santa, Chanukah Harry or the return of Lord Rama is totally beside the point.

This unsung clown posse not only leads the annual procession, but hours before the 12:45 p.m. start time, they’re geared up to visit the Hospital for Sick Kids and spread cheer to the little ones who don’t have the strength to spend the day curbside.

And so our story goes, Lucas has been watching his clown of a grandpa toss candy to kids and inspire fanfare like a bona fide celebrity for as long as he can remember. He would bring his grandfather in for show-and-tell and tell anyone who was listening that, when he turns 8, he too will be in the parade. My father was overjoyed by Lucas’ interest and was equally excited about his grandson’s inaugural year.

When the news quickly came that he was going be an elf on the Toys ‘R Us float, Lucas was still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about the whole prospect. That was 10 months ago.

Fast forward to three weeks before the parade, when I receive my letter detailing the events of the day. Among the many strict instructions, it said my child must be dropped at a community centre on one end of the city at 10:15 a.m. and picked up at a building on the other end six hours later. And in bold, ABSOLUTELY NO PARENTS ARE ALLOWED BEYOND THE DROP OFF POINT.

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