My memories of going to see Santa when I was a kid pretty much all revolve around one place, the mall. Growing up here in the Tri-Valley there was pretty much one place to see Santa (and pretty much the only place to do your shopping as well) and that was Stoneridge Mall. My memories of Santa’s Village right there in the middle of the mall are of the beautiful Santa’s Village full of mechanical reindeer, elves and Santa’s cottage. And so much fluffy white fake snow it could make you go blind of your stared too long. And of course very long lines that stretched out as far as the eye could see.
Everything a trip to see Santa is supposed to be.
But as an adult and parent these days in the Tri-Valley (especially Livermore) I have a number of options when it comes to taking my own kids to see Santa. And sadly I admit that until this year, the mall had never been one of them.
So as the newly named Stoneridge Mall Correspondent I was told my first assignment would be to document the Santa experience at Stoneridge I was filled with a wave of nostalgia and excitement.
Some people may turn and run the other way when it comes to visiting the mall at Christmastime, but for me, being a mallrat of sorts when I was a kid, I love it. The Christmas music, the hustle and bustle of shoppers running around, the twinkle of Christmas décor in all the stores and of course the excitement in the air. There’s no fighting it. As a kid it was part of the whole Santa experience and I thrived on it, so I couldn’t wait to take my kids.
We headed over to Stoneridge and made our way to the line of parents waiting, which was by all accounts not that, horrible. Our wait was about 20 minutes, because I wisely chose to go on a Tuesday after school. I imagine the line would’ve been even shorter had I gone on Wednesday when the kids got out of school early.
So heads up, forget the weekend trip if you can and do it during the week to cut down on your wait time.
I have to admit that though the towering tree that Santa sat beneath with the life-sized presents was beautiful, I missed for the Santa’s village Stoneridge used to have when I was a kid. As we waited it was hard not to reflect on the changes and similarities to the mall that have occurred since I was a prepubescent kid hanging out there.
Just as the wait was starting to make us all a little unnerved, something magical happened. As stood waiting we looked across Santa’s area to Godiva chocolates, which was just across the way. There was a man with long white hair and a white beard and what can only be described, as a tummy that I can only imagine must shale like a bowel full of jelly when he laughed. watching the mall Santa take pictures. He was dressed simply in a hoodie and jeans. We watched him until he turned and walked into the chocolate store.
“Wow, He looks almost like the real Santa.” I said. My kids know that the Santa’s we see during the season are not the “real Santa” but his helpers who take full reports of what they’re told and hand them over to Santa, who is MUCH too busty to visit every mall and store around the world during this bust time. “Yea mom, I wonder if he is.” Asked my 6 year old. “No, that’s not him.” My 8 year old, who is just beginning to question the actual existence of the big man in red, replied.
We waited until the man came out and watched as he walked up to the mall Santa and asked how things were going. Then he began walking through the mall away from us as my kids watched him wide eyed. Could it be?
Then out of nowhere this man stopped and turned and walked right towards us. When he came upon my amazed children he winked and said “Ho! Ho! Ho!” and continued on his way, bag of chocolates in his hand.
My kids watched him in wonder. “MOM. That was the REAL Santa wasn’t it??’ They both asked.
I watched the jolly man walk out of sight and couldn’t help but wonder….
I don’t have a clue who the bearded man was who was checking up on us as we waited in line that day, but I do know that as far as my kids are concerned when the “Real” Santa want to check out things in the real world and buy some Chocolate, there’s only one place he goes.
And for the rest of their lives every time we go to the mall they are going to keep an extra eye for him.
Who am I kidding? We’ll all be keeping an extra eye for him…
I received a Simon Mall Gift Card from Stoneridge Shopping Center to review the Santa Experience, but the opinions are completely my own.