I never really liked Santa at all. I was definitely not convinced that this man-clown was what he was cracked up to be. One particular Christmas song freaked me out and exposed what I believed to be Santa"s fatal flaw. The lyrics go, "He sees you when you"re sleeping, he knows when you"re awake, he knows if you"ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake." So, who is this Santa guy that he can watch me? And why can he punish bad children by bringing them coal and sticks when God forgives and loves them unconditionally? Who the hell does this Santa creep think he is?
The L.S. Ayres Santa Land Express is one of the biggest draws at the Indiana State Museum"s "Celebration Crossing."
The L.S. Ayres Santa Land Express nearly seduced me into the whole Santa schtick every year. Every Christmas Eve day, my nuclear family, like so many other families, went to the downtown Ayres for the Santa Land Express train ride, the dreaded visit with Santa, then lunch in the Tea Room. Now, at the new Indiana State Museum, children whiz around in that same train on what appears to be a smaller course (things were bigger when I was smaller in the early 1970s). The room is brightly lit, with mannequins snowboarding and doing other modern wintry things around the display. Children have to maneuver through a back and forth line, like waiting to get on an amusement park ride, to see Santa for the photo op and wish list delivery. It"s definitely an interpretation of the original set-up that children will enjoy. It"s not entirely what you will remember, however, so don"t expect it. For instance, the new Santa is not even slightly scary. One of his helpers told me they see very few screamers now. So I was officially able to let go of my Santa demon with this visit. I have my own unique and unforgettable L.S. Ayres memory of Christmas Past. Upon leaving the Tea Room on Christmas Eve in 1973, a man knocked over a heavy chrome aisle divider with big red velvet ropes. It landed square in the middle of my forehead as I was pretending to call my brother on a toy pink plastic phone (I still have it) that I had just gotten from the Tea Room toy chest. The next moment I was in the elevator going up to the nurse"s office. My dad was holding me, his handkerchief was red from blotting my wound, my blue velvet dress was purple and my white collar was red, too. So, thankfully, not everything is authentically old Ayres in this exhibit. Still, this rejuvenated L.S. Ayres Christmas display plays heavy on the hearts of people wanting to pass on memories to their children. Celebration Crossing, the holiday exhibit, is at the Indiana State Museum, 650 W. Washington St., 232-1637, through Dec. 31.