It was New Year’s Eve 2013, and we were sitting on the bench in the Santa Monica mall, waiting for the shuttle to take us back to the Motion Picture Home in the San Fernando Valley. I had just finished my seasonal job, the last one since retiring from television acting, as Santa at the mall.
She, who had retired from practicing law, had been Mrs. Santa this year. I had fallen asleep on the bench. Suddenly, I jolted awake.
“OMG!” I gasped. “I just had the weirdest dream.”
“What on earth was it about?” she asked.
“You won’t believe it. I dreamt that we were living in Maine. We’d been there for years.”
“What other Maine is there?”
“Of course.” I answered. “It was winter.”
“But you’ve never been there in winter.”
“But it was so real,” I said. “We were older, I had hair as white as the snow, not like this fake Santa stuff. I guess we were older.”
“How did I look?” she asked.
“Pretty much the same, but your hair was golden and curly.”
“Curly? You’re really stressed. I told you to ask the mall manager to let you be an elf this Christmas. You’re getting too old to be carrying all of those kids on your lap.”
“You’re just jealous,” I snapped, “because there were more twenty-somethings visiting Santa this year.”
She lowered her sunglasses to the tip of her nose and peered over at me.
“So tell me this crazy dream, Santa.”
“Well, we were living in this big house in Waterville, on a hill with the longest driveway you’ve ever seen. It was the middle of the winter, and it must have been a bad one because there was ice all around, ice on the driveway, the lawn, the trees were thick with it, and they were toppling down into the street. You were home with me because it was a snow day.”
“Snow day? What’s a snow day?”
“In the dream someone said it’s when they close the school because of snow. You were a teacher.”
“A teacher? In Waterville, Maine? Were we poor?”
“I don’t know, maybe we were, because I was wearing these old heavy coats and scarves and dirty sneakers. I was working for a newspaper, and I was coming out of a bar and slipped on the ice.”
She sat up, pale as a ghost. Her mouth dropped open.
“A newspaper? You were delivering newspapers in my hometown?”
“No, I was writing a column for the paper.”
“Oh boy,” she gasped. ”You were writing for the paper? We really were poor. Were the girls in the dream?”
“No, they weren’t in Maine. They were living in Los Angeles.”
“Oh good,” she said.
“That was the sad part of the dream.”
“They hated the snow and ice and refused to come to Maine to visit us anymore.”
“This was all in the dream?”
“Yes. I’m sitting at the bar in this run-down tavern, and someone called me to the phone, and it was the girls, and they said they weren’t coming anymore because they came at Easter last year and got snowed in.”
“They came to Maine in the winter? Both of them?”
“Same thing. What a crazy dream. You’ve been asleep for an hour, is that all of it?”
“It was so sad, they agreed they weren’t coming, and I said how sad that would be for you, so they said they would hire two actors who looked like them and send them.”
“That must have been the youngest, the actor’s agent, she was always coming up with crazy ideas like that. So was that it?”
“No, there was more. It went on and on in color. It was like watching HBO. We went boating on this big lake.”
“You’re afraid of water.”
“Not in the dream,” I said. “I went boating and water skiing and everything.”
“Go back to sleep why don’t you,” she said. “See if there’s a happy ending.”
“Kind of,” I beamed. “I became a famous journalist and won a Pulitzer.”
“OK, Santa, the bus is here. You can sleep on the way back and come up with something less preposterous.”
I guess there’s no point in telling her how in the end of the dream they made a movie out of one of my columns about her and they cast Scarlett Johansen. I’ll save that part for the guys at the New Year’s party tonight at the home. Happy New Year, old girl.
JP Devine is a Waterville writer.