When the beloved husband’s oldest daughter was around 4 or so, they went to visit the mall. There was a Santa there and you could tell him what you wanted. She was very excited and got in line. As her turn came up, the lady elf helping Santa asked how many pictures they would buy. Since they were cheesy Polaroids, the beloved husband said “None.”
The elf signaled the Santa and when the little girl approached him and tried to climb into his lap, he shoved a candy cane in her face and pushed her away. Perhaps Santa worked on commission and he wasn’t wasting his magic on a non-buying child.
It was a huge rejection from an image that was supposed to be kind and giving. As a result the daughter avoided Santa’s and refused to visit again.
A few years later the beloved husband took her to the mall for another reason. She was older and participating in a child’s “present buying” program. The beloved husband went to the bathroom and there was Santa (a different one). He asked if Santa would do him a favor and explained what had happened.
This Santa was indeed kindly and said he would see what he could do. When he went out to his throne, he called to her by name. She immediately hid under a rack of merchandise. He continued talking and asked if she could help him with something. Reluctantly she went over and before you know it she was up on his lap enjoying the whole experience.
At this point she was almost out of the “Santa” stage but the beloved husband was always grateful that she lost her fear of fat old men with beards dressed in fake red velvet. I think that’s a good thing. Maybe.