He was a goofy snowman who had an ice cream cone hat, carried a candy cane and had the most annoying, high-pitched nasal voice. But it wasn't Christmas until we made the pilgrimage downtown to the Maison Blanche department store on Canal Street. There, a giant Santa and his snowy little friend smiled down upon us as we marched through the front doors and up the escalator to the North Pole, where we stood in line with hundreds of other kids to see Santa and his helper, Mr. Bingle.
Mr. Bingle rocked. There were Mr. Bingle ornaments and stuffed toys. He had his very own theme song and even has his own video on You Tube. He made guest appearances on the local kiddie TV shows on Sunday mornings - even in black & white Mr. Bingle still managed to look very festive.
He had his own cookbook.
He was quite the celebrity. Every season, right after Thanksgiving, the commercials would start airing. That first "Jingle, jangle jingle, here comes Mr. Bingle, with another message from Kris Kringle..." was the signal for us to start begging Mom and Dad to take us downtown, to see the elaborately decorated windows, Santa, and, of course, the B-man himself.
It was a Very Big Deal to make the trek downtown to see Mr. Bingle and Santa. But, one of the most humiliating experiences of my life happened during a trip to see Mr. Bingle. Little did we know that it would be the last time my poor parents would ever take us downtown to see Santa. Maybe it was one of their most humiliating moments also.
I was either 8 or 9 years old when this happened. My brothers (it was all their fault) were about 5 and 7. We were dressed in our new Christmas outfits because we were going to have our pictures taken with Santa and Mr. Bingle. My grandmother, who was a seamstress, had made me a little navy blue skirt and jacket suit. I loved it because I thought it made me look very chic. Like Barbie, only shorter. And not blonde. And much more flat-chested.
The fatal mistake that my parents made was the decision to go look at furniture before taking us to see Santa. Which left my brothers and me to our own devices. (Have I ever mentioned that I have ADHD? And so do my brothers (who were responsible for this whole debacle)).
So what did we find to occupy ourselves with? Rugs, lovely thick stacks of soft, bouncy rugs. Perfect for jumping, tumbling and rolling about. Over and over. Until our father grabbed us, lined us up by the escalator and proceeded to give us each a good swat on the butt and a rather loud scolding (that was back in the day when the rod was not spared, even in public). Oh the humiliation! Because as we stood there in our whimpering misery, it seemed like hundreds and hundreds of well-behaved children, perfectly groomed for their visit to see Mr. Bingle, were getting off the escalator, shooting us looks of contempt and pity.
Perfectly groomed, lint-free children who would never, ever roll all over carpets and
embarrass their poor parents like that
embarrass their poor parents like that
But the worst of my misery was not from the public swatting, or even from being told that we were NOT going to get to visit Santa and Mr. Bingle. No, I was groveling in the humiliation and embarrassment of being covered in carpet lint. Literally, my perky little suit was no longer navy, but was a fuzzy mess of colored fibers. I was actually somewhat relieved not to have to stand in line and bear the scrutiny of the well-behaved children waiting to tell Santa how good they had been. I cried all the way home, sad at not visiting Mr. Bingle and Santa, worried that my suit was ruined and I would have to wear it this way when we went to Christmas mass.
I have only experienced this depth of humiliation 2 or 3 times since then. I survived the incident without too many obvious scars - I have bought rugs for my home, have worn other chic navy blue suits, and still have a deep fondness for Mr. Bingle.
And I am still quite positive that it was definitely my brothers' fault.