*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.
Many parents bring their children to the mall to visit Santa Claus. As a child, Santa Claus terrified me. I never sat on Santa's lap for a photo or whispered my Christmas gift wishlist in Santa's ear. Just the sight of a mall Santa sent me into a panic.
One long-ago day when I was still a small child, my mother took me shopping at a store without a Santa. In lieu of the typical mall Santa, this store boasted a "talking" Christmas tree.
As far as I could tell, the tree looked like any other traditional Christmas tree with all the trimmings, but a hidden speaker spoke to the kids in much the same way a mall Santa would.
My mother asked me if I wanted to get in line to talk to the tree, confident I would decline.
To her shock and horror, I said, "Yes."
According to my mother, once I realized talking to the tree was an option, I was quite insistent upon it. "You really thought you wanted to talk to that tree," she told me. "Until you changed your mind."
My poor mother dutifully got into the long line with me so I could talk to an artificial tree.
The longer we stood in the line, the less I wanted to talk to a tree. The problem was that I didn't know how to tell my mother.
I knew she wouldn't be angry, but I didn't want her to be disappointed. Plus, the longer we waited in line, the more difficult it became to admit I didn't want to be in that line after all. How could I tell her we'd wasted all that time for nothing?
When we were nearly at the front of the line, I realized if I was going to avoid talking to a tree, I'd need to admit it soon. I told my mother about my reservations, and she immediately pulled me out of line. It was such a relief.
To this day, I still get a little nervous around mall Santas, but it's nothing like the fear I felt as a young child. Now I just laugh when I remember my mother and me standing in that line to talk to a tree.
The experience taught me an important lesson: If you're feeling overwhelmed by something, speak up. It's amazing how a simple conversation can make you feel so much better.
So next time you're feeling intimidated by something, don't be afraid to admit it and share your feelings as soon as possible. Just remember my mother and me standing in line for a talking tree when I knew in my heart that I'd be ditching the line before it was my turn.
I could have spared myself a lot of anxiety if I'd admitted I changed my mind sooner. It would have saved my mother a lot of time to boot.
And that's the lesson I learned from a talking Christmas tree without talking to it at all. I'd consider that a win.
Have you ever learned a lesson from a mall Santa? Comments are welcome.