I was getting kind of restless being at home and I knew if I didn’t get out, it was going to be a bad day for both me and Ellie. We hadn’t been to the Henry Ford museum in a while so I decided it was time to go back. I’ve been there many times, but I never get sick of it. I love the atmosphere of the museum. It reminds me of my childhood as I walk through looking at all the exhibits. From planes and trains, to historical artifacts like Lincoln’s chair or the Rosa Parks bus, it’s amazing to see American History displayed like that in all the different categories. Now that Ellie is walking, I thought the big open spaces and all the things to look at, big and small, would be entertaining for her.

The first thing we saw as we walked through the doors was the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile. And then I got hungry. Since I conveniently hadn’t eaten lunch, I decided to head over to the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile Cafe to get a chili dog. Of course I didn’t just order a regular dog, I got the footlong. Ellie was asleep in her stroller so I was able to leisurely enjoy my hot dog without distractions. Then I woke her up and we headed to the museum floor. First stop: the Wienermobile! Japan has a lot of crazy things to offer, but only America is home to the Wienermobile. (I have not verified this fact, but it seems like it would be truth)

After admiring a car shaped like a hot dog, which I think Ellie thoroughly enjoyed, we started roaming through the museum. Ellie was rested from her nap and wanted to walk. She even took control of the stroller and started pushing it through the museum. She wasn’t too interested in the exhibits, but she sure enjoyed people watching. Like all the school children walking by on their field trip, or their teachers wearing those crazy holiday sweaters with the snowflakes and reindeer. With it being close to Christmas, the museum had a few photo booths with winter scene set-ups that you could take a family photo in front of. Someone approached me and asked if I wanted our picture taken… sure. I now have the world’s most awkward Holiday photo of me and Ellie sitting on a sleigh with a painted snow scene behind us. I think we have our Christmas card photo now!

So after a few hours of walking all over and Ellie pushing the stroller and looking at cars and airplanes, I thought maybe we should pull the plug and head home, but a guy stopped us and said there was a very short line to see Santa. I hadn’t even thought about taking her to see Santa. But I figured why not? Right? Ellie is pretty sociable and I have a friend with a long beard. When she met him she didn’t cry, she just stared at him in awe. She was getting tired but if it was a short line so I figured she’d be ok. And when she gets tired, she gets a little slap happy and is easily excitable and squeals. But she can also squeal in agony pretty easily when she gets that way, too. He said it was a short line, so I was going to give it a try.

The guy was right, it was a short line. There were a group of kids in front of us and then Ellie. The kids were telling Santa what they wanted and got their pictures taken. As we are waiting, I started to notice that there were a bunch of old people hanging around watching these kids, too. I thought maybe they were these kid’s grandparents. Nope. These people were next in line! And they spent a good twenty minutes with Santa! There were three couples and they took every picture imaginable with Santa. The couples, the whole group, just the women, just the men, etc. They were sitting on Santa’s lap, too!

While they were doing their photoshoot for the December issue of the AARP Newsletter, Ellie was quickly going from tired to crazy. She was still crazy happy, but I knew it could take a bad turn at any time. Ellie walked right up to the Line Sherriff and made her pick her up. She started squealing and cackling with laughter as she played with her name badge. I kept looking at my watch and started to worry that the people in front of me were going to miss their dinner plans. It was almost 3:00pm! I wouldn’t want them to miss the early bird special. Since they were taking their sweet time, I figured these had to be Santa’s pals. Maybe after his shift he was going to join them at Denny’s for a late dinner at 4:00pm?

Finally, we got to see Santa. As I walked towards Santa with Ellie, the Line Sheriff was saying, “Ease into it, make sure you are between her and Santa at first so she gets used to seeing him.”

At the same time, Santa was saying, “Put her right here, quick.”

I’m thinking, wait, what? We need to ease in, don’t we?

Santa says again, “Put her right here and stand over there and take the picture. Move quickly. She’s gonna jump.”

He wasn’t being rude or mean, it was just the exact opposite of what the Line Sheriff told me to do. As I was fumbling with my camera, Santa was talking through his teeth while smiling; “Take the picture, she’s gonna jump! Quick! Quick!”

Ellie, who was just cackling with laughter with the Line Sheriff, was not as joyful about seeing Santa. Her smile quickly turned into a face saying, “Who!? What!? A Wienermobile, and now THIS!? I don’t care if this guy has flying reindeer, I want out!”

Santa was right. He knows… he always knows…

My wife says building Christmas memories start with mom and dad. Even though Ellie won’t remember this trip, when she’s older I wonder if she’ll think of the Wienermobile whenever she sees Santa. That, or crave a chili dog. I know I will.

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