Little Jimmy Flotsam, aged 10 and living in Tampa, had never known Christmas. The current year was 2025 and in 2015 Santa Claus and his wife had wrapped things up at the North Pole and skipped town, so to speak. In a sadly mimicking blow, Jimmy’s father abandoned his family when his only child was three. Jimmy was left to ponder the delights of a family Christmas only through books and old movies. But all of that changed in the most recent December.
Jimmy’s mother, Heather, struggling to raise her son as a single parent, managed to claw her way up the ranks at the network that owned one of the major local television stations. She became a regional researcher for the nationally syndicated show that asked, “Where are they now?” Recently, she had lucked upon a story that would make headlines around the nation.
She discovered that Santa Claus and his wife were living in the Eternal Springs retirement home in the panhandle region of northern Florida. They were known to the rest of the residents as simply Christopher and Noelle Beard. She discovered this amazing fact by way of a tipster who noticed that Mr. Beard bore a striking resemblance to one Kris Kringle. Everybody had been wondering what happened to Santa Claus since his disappearance many years before.
Heather called Mr. and Mrs. Beard to make an appointment to visit with them. Mr. Beard was at first reluctant to talk and he was shy about admitting his true identity. But with a little prodding, he began to open up and eventually seemed eager to tell his tale. Everyone had been so upset when he closed down his reindeer and elf facility, but there was another side to the story and it was important to make everyone aware of the difficult situation he had found himself in.
Heather made the several-hours trip to Panama City and spent the afternoon with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. She took little Jimmy with her for company and to meet the formerly jolly old man. While Mrs. Claus baked and served gingerbread, along with egg-nog, Heather listened with keen attention to what Santa said. The way he put it, a “perfect storm” of misfortune overwhelmed him.
Santa’s problems started way back in the fall of 2008. The endowment fund that financed all of his activities at the North Pole, from making toys to keeping his employees housed and fed, was destroyed along with many hedge and private equity funds when the stock market collapsed. He tried to save what he could, selling the remainder of his shareholdings and putting the money into U.S. Treasuries. They held up for a while, but then the value of the U.S. dollar plummeted. Santa’s operations were world-wide. This second financial blow was devastating.
Santa’s “parcel delivery system” was never able to fully recover. Nevertheless, it did limp along for another couple of years. Staff members and livestock kept leaving through attrition, old age and illness and there was no way to replace them. Then came the torpedo that sank the ship. There were new government regulations that finally worked their way through the approvals process. Under other circumstances, Santa would have eagerly endorsed the measures. They set emissions standards to clean up the environment.
The threat of a carbon tax had been hanging in the air for some time. Santa’s North Pole was sitting on a thermal coal deposit. That’s why he was always able to hand out lumps of coal to little children who had not been very good during the previous twelve months. Fuel for his production line and all of his heating needs came from an unacceptably dirty source.
The carbon tax was the drain on his funds that broke his back. Furthermore, on this issue, he stood firmly on the wrong side. He was never going to be able to win over the hearts and minds of the general population to let him continue operating in the same old manner. Talk about a public relations nightmare. Besides, he no longer had the money to hire the lawyers to fight on his behalf. He knew he was licked. He and Mrs. Claus packed it in and moved to Toronto.
For a while, Santa was able to get by on his reputation. After all, he did have expertise in certain areas. He knew about chimneys, for example. He could scamper in and out of them in the twinkle of an eye and, therefore, he spent a few good years working as a steeplejack. But Santa wasn’t a teenager anymore, the work was strenuous and, to be honest, it was a little boring.
Then he tried his hand at running a comic book store. The problem was that he lacked the right amount of business acumen. He kept giving away his merchandise. One would think that Santa might have a problem coping with new technology. That was never the case, however. He had always been a quick study when it came to advanced scientific methods.
He was one of the first private-sector non-combatants to understand the “stealth” system developed by the U.S. military. That’s how he had been able to keep the location of his northern property a secret for so long. It also accounted for his ability to navigate his sleigh across the night skies while maintaining such a strong safety record versus other flying objects.
No matter what Santa did to keep busy, however, he was always wracked by thoughts of how he had let so many people down. He imagined looks of reproach and disapproval all around him. It became impossible to bear. He and Mrs. Claus took their lead from many other Canadian snowbirds. They decided to relocate to Florida and start over again under assumed names.
In their new home, they made many friends and their lives were comfortable. But there was always that residue of guilt and regret to haunt him. Maybe now was the right moment to tell the whole story. With the passage of time, the weight of public opinion might have lifted.
Santa and his missus agreed to be interviewed at the local TV station. The program aired the night before Christmas. He had been right about the timing. Their story was a sensation. Public sympathy swung over to their side. Save-the-Claus Foundations were set up on the Internet and money poured in.
But this presented another dilemma. Santa had once been an advocate of the “go big or go home” principle of corporate management. Look how that turned out. For much of the past hundred years, things were clearly out of hand leading up to the holidays.
No, this time he was going to do things differently. That’s where Jimmy came in. From the date of their first exploratory meeting at the seniors’ home, the two of them became great pals despite being mismatched in so many ways. Santa was the father-figure that Jimmy needed for emotional sustenance.
From Santa’s perspective, Jimmy was a young and joyful pleasure with never an accusing look. Santa had a wealth of stories that he enjoyed sharing and Jimmy was an eager and attentive audience. It was a win-win situation for both of them. Mrs. Claus and Heather were also appreciative that the “men” in their lives were in better frames of mind.
Santa, the former high priest of gift-giving, started to think a great deal more about the nature of worth and value. He understood that the fancier the gift, the greater the potential for dismissal. He had seen too many expensive presents taken for granted. What was most desirable? He and Jimmy already knew. Theirs was a quixotic relationship formed despite difficult circumstances.
Better means must be found to bring people together. He realized that his thoughts were heading in the right direction. Attention-paid and time spent are the most important things in life. Reaching out and touching another human being on a personal level is where spirituality begins.
Therefore, with some of their funding restored, Santa and Mrs.Claus have launched their Red-Suit Mistletoe Initiative, of which this story is the kick-off editorial. It is their firm belief that each of us needs to connect with family, friends and those in distress in a more meaningful and supportive way. They have no doubt that through good faith and firmer commitment the answer to the true meaning of Christmas can take on a deeper and more sustainable significance.