It’s Boxing day and the people of Sydney sweep to the sea. The beaches become an ocean of colour. Umbrella’s extolling anything from shoes to save the trees. Towels pronouncing that they’ve killed Kenny or all the shades of the rainbow that does not cloud the blue sky. Inside eskies, surrounded by ice are left over turkey, chicken, salads, bottles of white wine and cold drinks for the children.
Mum’s trying to hold onto young arms long enough to slap on some sun block while dad feels like a beached whale, regretting the extra Christmas pudding he had the day before. Somewhere along the beach a radio cheerfully tells them it is a beautiful thirty two degrees Celsius.
One Boxing day some years ago a large man wearing the biggest pair of board shorts anyone had ever seen walked down the path towards the beach. A woman, some said later that she was young, others said she was old walked behind him carrying a basket. He turned right and spread a towel as big as a tent underneath a palm tree that swayed happily in the warm breeze.
People noticed because he was pink. Pink all over except for his hair. His hair was white.
Once they were settled the woman with a stern look on her face and kind eyes spoke sharply. “Now dear remember last year how you got all burned and had to spend all that time in bed. Put some of that cream on!”
The man’s tummy moved in time to his laugh. “No my dear, How could I forget the pain. Pass it over here.”
Out of the basket, the woman lifted a big bucket of sunblock and rested it on the ground in front of him.
“Excuse me.” A young woman stood before them, a baby on he hip and a small girl standing beside her. “Do you mind if we spread our blanket here. We have three children and some people find them a bit noisy.”
The pink man waved his expansively. “Please, we love children.”
“Harry!” The woman called to a man who appeared over the hill carrying two foldup chairs, an esky, a large umbrella over his shoulder, numerous towels and trying not to trip over a boy aged about seven who kept walking in front of him.
“Dad! Look at the size of him. I wonder how much water he would displace.”
“David!” The young mother grabbed her son by the arm. “How dare you be so rude. Apologise this minute.”
A laugh rumbled somewhere in the pink man’s stomach. “I understand David. You got a science kit and book for Christmas and it has a lot of interesting things in it. I would say I would displace water three times my bulk.” He turned his back to the boy. “Now you can help me by putting some of this cream on my back.”
Two young men carrying surfboards came running down the path and stopped in their tracks just beside the group. “That sucks man. Look, not a breaker.”
“Justin.” The pink man called out. “If you wait twenty minutes, you will ride the best waves of your life.”
Justin looked at his friend and rolled his eyes. ‘what would he know.’
“Quite a bit Justin. I’m sitting here waiting for the big ones to come in.”
Justin winked at his friend who in turn snorted trying to cover a laugh.
“Whatya going to ride on.”
“Why this of course.” The man pointed to the palm tree. Justin’s mouth dropped open. Leaning against the tree stood a three metre surfboard gleaming in the sun.
Finally, Justin spoke. “Wow!”
The young woman glanced at her husband. ‘That wasn’t there a minute ago,’ she said with her eyes.
Harry and his dad headed for the water while the young girl remained playing with her doll. Her mother lay back while the baby fell asleep and listened to the waves gently washing the sand. The fronds of the palm tree swayed, weaving shadows across the people underneath.
Suddenly a great Whu-hoo! rent the air as twenty boys and girls raced by with surfboards under their arms. The young woman sat up and looked out to sea. Waves were building up silently and gathering momentum they raced for the shore. The tops broke out into white caps, rolling onto the base of the wave as they reached the sandy beach. She noticed that between the lifesavers flags it was dead calm, just a ripple, nervously touching the shore.
It was then that she realised the large man was missing.
“He’s out there with them.” She peeked over her glasses at the younger woman and smiled. “Go on, you been dying to ask me.”
The young woman checked the baby, made sure it was asleep then went and sat beside the other woman. “Tell me,” She asked a little nervously, “are you Mrs Clause?”
“So that makes him…”
Mrs Clause smiled. “Yes dear.”
The young woman stared at her stunned. “But how… Why…”
Mrs Clause patted the younger woman’s arm. “It’s like this. It’s Boxing day. To most people, today we don’t exist. Which suits us just fine. We can go anywhere in the world and we won’t be recognised. He likes to surf and swim and I like to sit anywhere the sun is shining. This year we decided Sydney. Now Carol – don’t looked so surprised that I know your name. I remember when you were ten you wanted to leave two pieces of cake for Santa. Yes, I travel with him on Christmas Eve. Heavens! If I didn’t read the map he would go over the same ground twice.”
Carol sat open mouthed, not knowing what to say.
“Carol, this will have to be our secret, okay?”
The young woman nodded. At that moment Santa walked up to them, his white beard glistening with salt. “That was beautiful, so restful.” A look passed between him and his wife.
“San – sir,” Carol stuttered, “would you like a sandwich?”
“Certainly not,” said Mrs Clause, “he’s trying to lose weight!”
J W Kelly © 1998