A Christmas Trip to Santa Land Hell
December 8, 2012
In the category of the the true stuff is always the funniest, I present an only slightly fictionalized account of a trip to Santa Land with the family. The real event has become the stuff of legend around our house. Parents and grandparents, have you been there?
A Family Trip to Hell aka Santa Land
Near Lindale, Texas, on the north side of Interstate 20, Lucifer has established a stronghold and named it Santa Land.
This tale is true however surreal it may seem to those who have avoided that hell hole, those who go about their holidays in merriment and song, believing the world is essentially good, that people can rise above their self-interests, that God is on his throne, and all is right with the world.
Not so at Santa Land in the heart of Christian East Texas.
About this time in a Christmas season past, we set out to embrace the spirit of Christmas.
To protect those not so innocent, I will use pseudonyms for all of the participants involved except for my wife Paige and me.
Paige and I, our daughters, Nala and Herespudia, and Nala’s friend boy, Ralph, journeyed first to a local Christmas tree farm where we acquired a tree once in the running for the National Mall display, a forty-seven foot spruce with a base much too large for any tree stand. After we brought it home at 4:30 in the afternoon, we re-loaded, jumped in Nala’s Ford F150 and headed out for hell.
Fifteen minutes from home on I-20, we encountered the first of many obstacles. Santa’s sleigh had crashed and burned in the east bound lanes, and rubberneckers jammed our west bound flight. As we sat motionless for an hour or so, we came to know a biker and his babe on their Harley, smelled the seasonal aroma from their smokes.
It was during this delay that Herespudia began to make her feelings known. She was in the middle of a cell phone break up with her significant other, a young soldier six months home from Iraq.
“Dad, why don’t we just get off here and try it again some other time?” she said, the tension beginning to mount in her voice.
“It will clear up in a minute, try to remain calm,” I said. Calm was not her strong suit, especially when she was trapped in the backseat of a Ford pickup with her younger sister and a boy she had met for the first time two hours before.
When the traffic cleared, we proceeded to The Cracker Barrel for supper. By now it was dark. At CB, we encountered another hurdle. Since it was the only restaurant within five miles of the hell hole known as Santa Land, travelers had congregated from places as far away as Dallas and Minneapolis to partake of their final meals.
An hour and half later, we emerged.
We entered the east bound ramp of the Interstate, drove about four hundred yards and got in line for Santa Land. This line formed on the south shoulder of the highway and extended approximately seven miles. Cars unaware that hell lay just north of them hurtled by us, screeching their tires as they dodged insane motorists who jockeyed for better positions in the line to Hades.
Herespudia had endured all she could. ( I told you patience wasn’t her strong suit.) “Can’t we just go the f..k home?” she pleaded. She had eaten coconut candy with stripes at Cracker Barrel.
Ralph dropped his head low and kept his mouth shut.
“Let’s take a vote,” she said. “Who wants to go and who wants to stay?”
Nala and I voted to stay. Paige had cratered and voted with Herespudia to pack it in.
Ralph was the swing vote. He looked at Nala, he looked at Herespudia.
“I really don’t think I have a vote,” he said.
“Smart move, Ralph,” Nala said.
“Humph,” Herespudia said. “OK, just let me out of the truck. I’ll hitchhike back from here.”
“Remain calm,” I said.
“It’s just a bunch of f…king lights,” Herespudia said.
I came up with a Solomonic solution.
“Let’s flip a coin,” I said.
“Who has a quarter?”
One of the prisoners provided the coin.
“You call it, dad,” Nala said.
Ralph flipped the quarter.
“Heads,” I said.
Ralph turned on the light in the back of the cab, checked the coin, showed it to Herespudia.
“Heads it is,” he said.
“To Santa Land we go,” I said.
“Who the hell ever calls ‘heads’?” Herespudia said, resigned to her fate.
Two hours later, we completed the tour that consisted of a million lights draped over the cheesiest Christmas props on the planet. Before we could exit the park, the one-lane, one-way road directed us by the gift shop. We de-trucked to relieve ourselves and repeated our Cracker Barrel experience. Forty-five minutes later, we made it to the east bound lane of I-20.
“This is the last time, you’ll get me to Santa Land,” Herespudia said.
Or me, I thought.
When we made it home at eleven o’clock, Herespudia said no goodbyes, jumped in her car and peeled out of the drive.
“It was really nice to meet your sister,” Ralph said to Nala. “You have a really cool family.”
(Stephen Woodfin is an attorney and author of legal thrillers. He has not been back to Santa Land Hell since that fateful night. Nala goes twice a week between November 1 and Christmas.)