My stepfather is an accountant. He looks and acts exactly like an accountant too, most of the time; sober suit, serious demeanor, the glasses, the thinning hairline. He does have a wry sense of humor, but he's also a curmudgeon. He never had kids of his own - he inherited my mother's 3 daughters in a sense, two of whom were already grown up when he entered our lives. Despite that sense of humor though I've always thought of him as an essentially serious guy.
So when my mother sent me these pictures, I was totally puzzled. What was some strange guy doing dressed up Santa Claus doing in her living room? (I did recognize her precious toile de jouy curtains, so inappropriate for her modern highrise Yokohama apartment, but a precious reminder to her of her little old house on Long Island that she loved.)
I looked closer, and indeed, it was my serious accountant stepfather. He is serving as an official on the local community governing board (jichitai) this year, and it seems that they needed a Santa for various occasions. Somehow the role fell to him. (My mother somewhat unkindly says it's because his rounded physique filled out the costume so well. But he does look great, doesn't he?) Apparently he's been performing his Santa tasks admirably.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised at that though. Despite his curmudgeonliness and gruff exterior, he's generous to a fault and terrific with kids. He's been a real grandfather to my sister's children, who call him "Ketty-chan" (a play on his name) rather than "ojiichan" (grandpa) since he says that makes him feel old. And, all things considered I couldn't have asked for a better 2nd father, and husband for my mom. They have been together now for longer than she was with my father, which kind of makes me feel old.
To all the temporary Santas performing your Santa-ly duties this season: Great job, and Merry Christmas.
(If you're looking for a great Christmas drink to warm you up as you do your Santa thing, try my always popular and dead easy recipe for Glühwein .)