I’m sure that anyone who has ever worked with children will agree that the nice, quiet and polite children are rarely the ones you remember. Instead we remember the annoying children, the ones who misbehave, the ones that make us laugh, the ones with interesting or outgoing personalities and the ones who gives us a reason to remember them. Out of the hundreds of children I met whilst working as an elf in Lapland I can only remember a handful of them in some way and I could count on one hand the number of names I could match to those memories but, while my memories of most of the children fade into a blur of blue and red snowsuits, there are a select few children and moments that I will never forget.
I will always remember the first child I met outside of Santa’s cabin in the Finnish wilderness. Snowflake and I were inside the cabin debating which of us should greet the first family when the reindeer drawn sleigh appeared from amongst the snow covered trees outside the cabin. Being the closest elf to the door of the cabin, Santa asked me to go outside and greet the first child. I stepped outside to meet the quiet seven year old boy. He was an only child and had come to visit Santa with his mum and dad. His name was unusual but I can clearly remember it. That little boy is the only quiet and polite child I can really remember meeting. It’s not that he was the only nice child who visited Santa last year, it’s just that the nice children, unfortunately, aren’t very memorable and they all blur into one on the nice list. That one nice child stands out in my memory because his family were the first guests that I met on MY first day as Santa’s little helper and that’s a memory I will always cherish.
The other children that have made it into my memory have given me a reason to remember them. They either did or said something memorable or had a crazy request on their Christmas list. I’m less likely to remember the names that accompany these memories. Quite often when I can’t remember someone’s name they end up with a nickname that has been formed by something I remember about them.
This brings me on to the eponymous character of today’s story, the Geordie Starfish. The Geordie Starfish is a nickname I gave to a little boy who came to visit Santa with his two older siblings and their parents. I’m not great at guessing ages but I’m going to say he was around 18 months old as he could walk but was very unsteady on his feet. Many of the younger children who came to visit Santa didn’t really understand what was going on. Some of them got scared and cried, others didn’t understand how important the man sitting in front of them was or how much money their parents had paid for this holiday and were entirely underwhelmed by the whole experience, more interested in the various decorative toys placed around the cabin than the main man himself. The little Geordie Starfish was too young to really understand what was going on so his parents were happy to let him toddle off and explore the cabin while their older two children discussed presents with Santa and Snowflake.
Now I bet you’re wondering how on earth this poor little boy ended up with his rather unusual nickname. For anyone who’s not from the UK, ‘Geordie’ is the name used to describe the accent of people from Newcastle, a city in North-East England. Although this little boy didn’t speak much, his family had an accent which I can fairly confidently say was from somewhere around the Newcastle area – They were Geordies. By the way he waddled unsteadily across the cabin, I can only assume that underneath his miniature sized snow suit the little Geordie must have been wrapped in another ten layers and, since he was so small, this meant that his little arms and legs were sticking out and, with his little hat on his head, he looked like a puffy little starfish – The Geordie Starfish.
The Geordie Starfish’s two older siblings were fully enchanted by the whole Santa experience and Snowflake and Santa were busy examining the naughty and nice list with them at the other side of the cabin but the little Geordie Starfish was a little bit too young to understand. His parents were busy enjoying the experience with their other two children and taking photos and videos so the little Geordie starfish attempted to go and explore the cabin. He made it over to the Christmas tree, where I was standing, but was so weighed down by his many layers that he toppled over. I picked him up and got him back onto his rather unsteady feet and he swayed forward again and again like a tree blowing in the wind so I propped him up and crouched down attempting to entertain him by playing peekaboo under the hood of his snowsuit all the while with my hand out like a tourist at the leaning tower of Pisa to stop him flopping face down on the floor of the cabin.
I can’t remember anything more about the rest of his family or what else happened during their meeting with Santa and I would also expect that, if Santa or Snowflake do happen to remember this family at all, they would be more likely to remember one of the other two children whom they spent more time talking to. I think it’s fascinating how our funny little minds and memories work. Much to their disappointment, I was never going to remember all of the children who visited Santa in Lapland but there are a few who are unforgettable. Along with the first child I met outside the cabin, the little girl who asked Santa for a taser for Christmas and the boy who was more excited to go and see the huskies than to meet Santa, the Geordie Starfish is a cute little kid I’ll never forget.