Maybe it's the magic of Christmas, maybe it's absence making the heart grow fonder, or maybe I've just spiked my eggnog with too much rum, but today I'm going to say something I never expected to say.
There's no pointing beating around the bush, so I'll just blurt it out -- Creepy Santa, please come home!
By way of background, Creepy Santa is a three-foot-tall plush Santa doll I have immortalized in several groundbreaking holiday columns in recent years.
He was nicknamed Creepy Santa by my daughter because his pale plastic face has a malevolent, open-mouthed glare, like one of those icky inflatable dolls you find on the Internet. To me, he's the spitting image of former Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich, only more lifelike.
Normally at this time of year, Creepy Santa is parked on our porch to scare away carollers and neighbourhood kids who want to shovel our driveway, but last Christmas he vanished, spirited away by kidnappers.
As you can imagine, we were devastated. I am, of course, lying. The truth is, we didn't even know he was missing until, about a week later, a mysterious brown envelope appeared in our mailbox. Inside was a photograph of the little dude sporting a tiny Winnipeg Jets T-shirt. There was also a slip of paper bearing this grisly holiday message: "GO JETS GO!"
My initial reaction was fear -- fear that Creepy Santa's kidnappers would discover how creepy he is and decide to return him. But that's not what happened. Every month since he vanished, we have received a fresh, brown envelope containing a photo and a menacing note detailing the activities he's endured during this ordeal.
For instance, the kidnappers have sent us photographic evidence of our scowling stuffed Santa at the Opening Ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in London, dressed like a swarthy sea dog to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day, and even floating in the giant inflatable pool in our backyard during this summer's heat wave.
A little more than a month ago, the envelope held a gruesome picture of the rosy-cheeked galoot being tortured by a shadowy figure wearing a mask, a blood-spattered apron and wielding a chainsaw. The attached note asked: "Could this be the end? (No wonder I hate Halloween!)"
And this week, along with the usual Christmas cards, what I suspect may be the last mystery envelope showed up at our door. It yielded a photo of our Creepy Claus perched on the knee of a real-life shopping mall Santa, who was only marginally less creepy.
"Well," the note taped to the photo snickered, "that was awkward!"
The crazy thing is, we are truly starting to miss his creepy little plastic face. We realize now, for better or worse, this holiday horror is a part of our family.
Without him around, it's been painfully quiet at our house this festive season. The only thing we have that passes for a holiday tradition involves my wife and kids hiding Creepy Santa in random locations, then waiting, gleefully, for their hapless victim to stumble on him and scream in holiday horror.
Even my daughter is in mourning, which I know because Thursday we had the following heart-to-heart conversation:
My daughter (sighing): "I miss (sniff) Creepy Santa."
Me: "Um, why?"
My daughter (rolling her eyes): "Duh! Because he's creepy!"
My wife, She Who Must Not Be Named, wants him back, too. I recall the time, a few years ago, she decided to plop him in the passenger seat of her car and take him for a ride when she drove to the mall to pick up our daughter.
En route, she was pulled over by the police. An officer strode briskly over to the car and motioned for her to roll down the window.
"Hello, officer," my wife spluttered.
"You know, ma'am," the officer said, courteously, "your passenger really should be buckled up."
In all this time, the kidnapper or kidnappers have never sent us a ransom note, so we don't have a clue who took Creepy Santa, or why. Naturally, we have accused all of our friends, who deny having anything to do with it. But the point is, they look guilty, which is good enough for me.
So, please, Creepy Santa, if you can hear me, it's time to come home. Christmas just isn't the same without you. I'm praying that very soon I'll hear a familiar, joyful noise rising into the air at our house. I'm talking about the shrieks of terror my wife makes when the kids hide you in our (bad word) shower.