Big B & Skinny Santa make the rounds.

That elf, 2nd from the left, is my mom.

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She may not actually be from the North Pole, but she is superhuman.

For over 30 years, she worked as a nurse in the ER and OR at our local hospital.

Putting in 12-hour shifts before coming home to cook, clean, and care for 4 busy farm kids (5 if you count my dad).

And more often than not, she had to work the holidays.

Christmas morning, us kids would excitedly awake at sunrise then patiently wait all day for her to get home, have dinner, a quick rest — and then finally open the presents we’d been eyeing all day.

No easy task for a 4 year old to say the least.

But as I got older, I started to realize that someone was creating all that joy.

And someone was working hard while we were at play.

So I started to take a page out of her book, and began to dress up as Santa to visit hospitals on that special day.

With a sack full of tangerines, and a few hundred candy canes, mom and I would make our way down the highway.

On the drive in, we got our fair share of double takes (it’s not often you see Santa cruising a 400 series highways in a Chrysler on Christmas Day).

And when we arrived, the energy elevated.

Everyone’s joy awakened — doctors, nurses, staff, parents, and little kids waiting for x-rays.

We got giggles from down the hall, sparked smiles from quarantine rooms, and belly laughs from bedridden patients.

Dashing through the halls of Douglas Memorial Hospital, the jokes about my suit looking too big on my frame were icing on the Christmas cake.

‘Hey, Skinny Santa!’

‘Mrs. Claus needs to fatten you up.’

And for some of those hecklers, this would be their last visit from Saint Nick — and even their last holiday.

But their stories and spirit were bigger than the sack I was carrying, and their gratitude was sweeter than its contents.

Heartfelt ‘thank yous’ from further than the North Pole made their way beyond a sweaty layer of red felt, through mom’s couch cushions, and into new places.

It doesn’t get much better than ‘Skinny Santa’ on Christmas Day, surrounded by love — dressed as elves and reindeer.

Like this image with my mom, sister, and amazing partner Vickie — is the reminder that the greatest gifts you can receive aren’t found in a store, they’re actually unwrapped in our giving.

Don’t keep up with the Joneses — make your own holidays.

kj