How to save a beard
LORI OSIECKI ILLUSTRATION
My grandson Go-Cup is 6, and he’s getting suspicious about Santa Claus. Last year he come up with the brilliant idea to duct-tape the doors shut on Christmas Eve. He figured Santa would come down the chimney, leave the presents and when he tried to get out, he would make so much noise Go-Cup would wake up and hear him.
But when Go-Cup woke up it was Christmas morning, and he forgot about the tape. Nobody noticed it until they were about to rush off to church.
And then, when they tried to pull it off, it didn’t do the paint job no good.
Go-Cup’s sister Lollipop, who’s 10, informed him he was a idiot, because everybody knows Santa Claus puts his finger upside his nose and up the chimney he goes.
The thing is, he’s the last believer in the family and we ain’t ready to give up Santa Claus ourselves. Luckily, we got a Santa Claus handy: my brother-in-law Leech.
You know how they say everybody has a talent? Leech is what you call a late bloomer. He has turned out to be a professional Santa Claus. He gets dropped out of helicopters at shopping centers and everything.
He got a belly that shakes like a bowlful of Jell-O (a big bowl – my mother-in-law Ms. Larda keeps letting out his red velvet suit). Little kids love him. They ain’t heard his jokes yet, and they’re happy to pull his finger.
But what makes him world-class is his beard. He grows it as careful as some people grow African violets.
It is white and soft and fluffy as cotton. Not scraggly, like the beards them duck people on TV have hanging off their faces. Leech’s beard took Best of Show three times running in the NSBC (National Santa Beard Completion) in Austin.
He says it takes a lot of energy to grow a good beard, so he has to spend a lot of time in his recliner, letting nature take its course.
Every January he shaves it off, then allows it to grow back nice and full. In August, he starts applying beard strengthening-and-whitening gel. (NSBC rules allow this, but no hydrogen peroxide or other artificial aids.)
During Christmastime he’s usually so busy we never see him. So Go-Cup don’t know what he does.
And it so happens that this year Leech has his final gig on Christmas Eve at a polo farm up on the Northshore, near Gumdrop’s house. Perfect.
On Christmas Eve we’ll all go up to Gumdrop’s like usual. After the polo farm gig, Leech will turn up with a sack of toys.
I go up there early in the day to help her get ready. When we got the last present wrapped and the last ornament hung, we both rush into the bathroom; I shower while she Nairs the hair off her legs; then we switch paces and we waltz out looking gorgeous – just in time.
The plan is: When Leech is close, he’ll text Gumdrop. She will say, “Is that sleigh bells out front?” We will all run out front while Leech climbs in the bathroom window. In the back. When we come inside he’ll be ho-ho-hoing in the living room.
It works like a charm. Except when we get inside, Santa is wearing a ski mask. It is quite a shock. He says “Ho ho ho! It was a little breezy in the sleigh tonight.” And he smells funny.
Still and all, Go-Cup acts thrilled.
After Santa leaves and the kids are in bed, Gumdrop and myself try to figure it out. That smell is so familiar. Then it hits me. Nair. The hair remover.
And there, on the sink, is the container of Nair. Just where Gumdrop left it.
Next day we get the story. Leech looked in the mirror and thought his beard looked a little peaked, so he rubbed what he thought was the mousse he found on the sink. It smelled bad, so he rinsed it out. And off came his beard. Thank God there was a ski mask in the hall closet.
Later, I ask Go-Cup what he thought about Santa. He looks at his pile of gifts, he looks at me and he smirks. “Santa Claus is cool,” he says.
I ain’t got no stupid grandkids.