In Providence: Up on the Housetop

If you drove by a house on the South Side of Providence a few years ago around the holidays, you might have seen a family standing outside trying to figure out how to rescue Santa.

“What happens is, my husband dresses up like Santa every year for the kids, and on Christmas Eve, my brother and his kids come over, and we do the presents, and then we go, ‘What’s that sound? It sounds like Santa!’ My husband — he sneaks out and gets up on the roof. I tell him that he’s getting too old to be doing that, but the kids get all excited for it.”

The custom is for the whole family to go outside, wave to Santa and then head back in to watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Then, the missing member of the family sneaks back in and swears that he was downstairs in the basement when Santa showed up, and oh gosh, did he miss him again like he did last year?

“It’s stupid, but it’s cute. The kids love it.”

But in 2017, things got a little dicey.

“He had snuck out and was gone for about 10 minutes. We were just about to do our whole act where we tell the kids we think we hear something, but we really do hear something. We hear this big bang. I think he’s just overdoing it, and I think, I’m going to tell him to go easy, or he’s going to come right through the roof next time. I think he’s being a ham, you know? Next thing I know, I hear yelling and everybody goes running outside.”

When they did, they saw Santa hanging onto the top of the roof, legs flailing, and a cherished holiday tradition quickly became a family emergency.

“My brother is going– ‘We gotta call the fire department.’ I’m yelling at him– ‘I’m not getting all those fire people involved in this.’ My father was alive 92 years. Never called the fire department once. Not once. We got a ladder by the garage. I told my brother, ‘Go up there and get Santa.’ All the kids are crying. My sister-in-law took them inside and told them, ‘Santa’s going to be okay. Mom and Uncle are going to save him. Don’t worry.’ My poor kids are traumatized now, all because my stupid husband has to play Santa for my kids and all the neighbors to see.”

And speaking of the neighbors–

“They start coming out of their houses. A bunch of nosebags. Get back in your houses. What are you looking at? My husband’s trying to do a nice thing for the kids, and these people are coming out to laugh. He could have died. One of my neighbors brought me over some coffee though while my brother got up on the ladder. That was nice. She’s nice, the woman across the street. She’s a nurse. God bless those people. I don’t know how they do it.”

Her brother managed to get up on the roof, but once he did, he realized what the problem was. The entire surface was nearly covered in ice. It had rained and her husband hadn’t checked to make sure it wasn’t frozen over before it was too late.

“Now my brother is up there trying to get ahold of something, and my husband’s hanging on and screaming that he’s losing his grip, and the kids can hear him screaming inside, so my sister-in-law’s turning up the tv so the kids can’t hear, and I’m screaming at my husband that he needs to shut up, because he’s scaring the kids, and the neighbors are saying we should call the fire department, and I’m telling them– ‘Mind your own business!’ Except for the lady across the street, she’s nice. I like her. You should hear how much she works. She never gets a break. God bless her.”

Finally, her brother managed to get to her husband and help him get to the ladder. Once they were safely down on the ground, he took a few photos with the neighbors, and then waved to the kids through the window so they could see Santa was all right.

“Imagine if he fell through the roof on Christmas Eve! I would have killed him. I would have killed Santa right in front of the kids. Good thing we had that ladder. We borrowed it from my cousin and never gave it back. Don’t use my name. I don’t want my cousin to know we still have that ladder. What does he need it for? He has more money than god. He could buy 20 ladders if he wanted to. That ladder saved my husband’s life.”

Since that year, Santa doesn’t make his trip up to the rooftop anymore, but he does wave to the kids from the comfort of the front yard.

“I told him to go over and wave to the lady across the street, too. She’s a nurse in the middle of all of this. Do you believe it? I told him, ‘Go over there and have Santa wave to her, because she deserves it. She’s a hero. Get over there before I come out there and kick Santa’s ***.’ That’s what I told him. She got a real kick out of it. I’m glad. She’s a good person.”

And what about the kids?

“They’re getting a little older now. I don’t know if they like seeing Santa as much as they used to. But my husband still likes doing it, you know? These days, it’s really more for him. It makes him so happy to do it. As long as he doesn’t try getting back up on that roof, I don’t care. But I’m not paying for a new roof just so he can play Santa. ‘Santa’s walking this year, kids.’ That’s what I told the kids the first year he was outside in the yard. ‘Santa’s just going to walk.

Even the oldest traditions have to change with the times.