‘This is definitely a room full of believers’
Tom Ferrera slips on his trusty black leather-like boots in the Fremont Elementary teachers lounge. There is a true backstage feeling here – an air of excitement and expectation in his pre-performance ritual.
Methodically, he puts on the red and white jacket. The black belt comes next. He buckles it over with help from his wife, Dee. The thick cotton beard goes on next. Then the hair is bobby-pinned into place.
He tops it off with the floppy red hat. He’s ready to go.
The door swings open like it would for any larger-than-life person. Tom, now officially Santa Claus, cruises down the school’s main hallways, moving with the swift confidence of a rock star making the long trip from the dressing room to the stage.
Some students catch a glimpse of him from the lunchroom and a small eruption of voices follow. His wife hands him a leather strap full of bells as he gathers himself at the door to Mr. Lowe’s classroom.
He catches a deep breath as though filling himself with the spirit of Old St. Nick and then makes his grand entrance.
“Ho! Ho! Ho!” he says, moving quickly through the room as the awestruck students begin to gather around.
“Good to see you again,” he says. “Merry Christmas!”
“This is definitely a room full of believers,” smiles Lowe. “The kids plan their whole winter around this one afternoon.”
Lowe’s special-education class receives a visit from Santa every year, courtesy of the SBC TelecomPioneers. Board member Lee Radtke says most of the money for the presents Santa gives comes from club dues, garage sales and donations. “Safeway has really been good at supporting us,” he adds.
First up on Santa’s lap is Emily Barbera, 13. She wants monster cars for Christmas, but is equally satisfied by a stuffed lion Santa presents her. She quickly makes up a name for the lion: “Lily.”
Ivan Rosas Medina, 11, thanks Santa for his Transformer, then hops off the lap and does a dance of joy, holding his new toy above his head with a large, triumphant smile.
Jacob Kingsley, 12, is full of energy. He claps and runs around in excitement. He gives his friend Antoine Skenandore, 10, a hug, wanting nothing more than to share his enthusiasm and Christmas spirit.
Class aides Becky Smith, Tami Abeloe and Shari Kind help the students with their presents and prepare them for their next task: to make Christmas cookies. Lowe praises the importance of his assistants and admits he couldn’t get much of anything done without their skills and patience.
Beverly Sutherland, one of the 89-strong Pioneers, says she looks forward to this day throughout the year.
In all the chaos, Santa seems to have magically disappeared.
His work here is done.
Contact reporter Peter Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1215.