Doing time at the North Pole

Brianna (back) coming down the Candy Cane Slide with her cousin Tiffany in 1987.I live in the mountains. So high up in the mountains, in fact, that I'm within a 30-minute drive of the North Pole. THE North Pole. Where Santa Clause lives.

Having lived in this area the majority of my life, work at the North Pole—Home of Santa's Workshop was a viable employment option when I was a teen. I worked at the North Pole the summer I turned 16 years old and could drive myself through its enchanting gates.

Jobs for teens at the North Pole were aplenty. Teens worked as shop attendants, ride operators, food servers, magician assistants, and Santa's assistants...more commonly known as elves, with the most sugarplum of assignments being Santa's dedicated elf, the one who hangs with Santa in his house and takes the photos of all the good little girls and boys who come to visit him.

I never got to be Santa's personal elf. In fact, I never got to be an elf at all. I wasn't perky, pretty, and personable enough in the job interview, apparently, to have the honor of being named one of Santa's sweeties. Nope, I was named a "front ride operator." Meaning I helped with the rides at the front of the amusement park.

For the duration of the summer, I covered business at the bouncy house, or took tickets and strapped kids in on the miniature car ride or the Shetland ponies walking in an endless circle. The north ride I was assigned to most often of all, though, was Santa's Candy Cane Slide.

As gatekeeper of Santa's Candy Cane Slide, my duties included not only taking tickets and handing out gunny sacks for sliding down in, I had the honorable task of waxing the spiral slide from top to bottom every single morning before the park opened. With a bar of wax, I'd crawl backward down the slide, waxing on (never off) all the whole way. Then I'd grab a gunny sack, start at the top, and shimmy my way down, shining and slicking from side to side with my gunny-sacked tush. Then I'd climb the stairs again, plop down at the top of the slide and take the first slicked-up ride of the day.

Each morning, I reported to duty in my navy blue slacks and red North Pole T-shirt. I arrived uniformed and ready to roll. No need to join the hundreds of girls in the elves' dressing room, giggling and gaining friends (and fodder for future comparisons to Santaland Diaries) as together they donned varied but equally festive jumpers, skirts, pinafores, peasant blouses, vests, jolly tights, elfin shoes and hats.

As I waxed and tore tickets and rescued kiddies freaked out midway down the peppermint spiral, the elves greeted guests with smiles and squeaky voices and frolicked festively about the grounds of the North Pole.

On breaks, I'd enter the cafeteria alone, eat alone, leave alone, while pairs and trios and more of the happy little elves nibbled their nosh together, complaining about their hard work of playing happy all day long.

The elves went home smelling like the candle shops or candy shops or whatever jolly joint they'd been assigned. I went home smelling like sweat from sitting outside the spiral slide in the sun all day long. Or like ponies.

I once was bitter. Today, though, I am bitter no more.

Bubby, Baby Mac and Megan are visiting next week, and today I added to the schedule of Fun To Be Had while they are here a visit to the North Pole. Bubby is the perfect age for hanging with the real Santa in his real off-season digs. For marveling at the reindeer roaming the place. For riding the Ferris Wheel, the Christmas Tree ride, for sliding down the Candy Cane Slide. And for giggling about all the elves happily helping out here, there, and everywhere throughout the North Pole.

When we visit, I will tell Bubby all about Gramma working there. About waxing the slide to make it as slick as can be, then getting to be the very first one to go down it each and every day, savoring the slickness no one else would know. He'll think that's pretty darn cool, I'm sure.

Bubby would not think it's cool, I'm sure, if I told him I were once an elf at the North Pole. For if I once were an elf, why would I no longer be an elf? Slide operators grow up, move on, become Grammas who no longer live at the North Pole. But elves? Once an elf, always an elf. Or that's how it should be. What disgrace would I possibly have brought upon myself to be kicked out of the elf kingdom and made to live in a regular house as regular folk instead of with Santa?

Sharing news I once was an elf surely would get my oh-so-bright Bubby wondering how that could be. Gramma's not an elf now, so how could she ever have been? Is it all just made up? Is the whole Santa story simply a sham? Like I said, Bubby's at the perfect age for marveling at the magic, for visions of sugarplums and candy canes and dancing reindeer and all things great about the story of Santa, the North Pole. I would hate to be the one to ruin that for him.

So if having once been an elf might ruin the magic for Bubby, I'm all for proudly owning up to having been a north ride operator instead. A ticket taker, a slide slicker. There's no shame in that...and may even hold an "ooh" or an "aah" at the nifty job Gramma once had.

So, yeah, I wasn't an elf. Today I've decided that's okay. Today I've come face to face yet again with proof that things—regardless of the disgruntlement they may cause at the time—really do happen for a reason.

Preserving the magic for Bubby is reason enough for me.

Today's question:

What summer jobs did you have as a teen?