Many people believe there isn’t much to see or do in Ohio and that it’s a pretty boring state to spend your leisure time. Atticus and I would disagree. From the gravity of historical sites like the William Howard Taft home in Cincinnati, to the frivolity of the Christmas Story House in Cleveland, Ohio is chock-full of entertaining, educational, and fun attractions for people of all ages. Because I have always believed that Atticus should be subjected to as many social situations and uncommon experiences as possible, we try to visit several sites a year.
We decided to take a trip to the small town of Medina. Medina is home to Castle Noel , which houses more than 40,000 square feet of Christmas inspired memorabilia from Hollywood movies, breathtaking window displays from New York City’s Sak’s Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales, and interactive attractions like the vertigo inducing blizzard vortex and chimney squeeze.
The biggest attraction at Castle Noel is the Santa Klaus Mountain Slide where you can have your picture taken with Santa and take a ride on the giant red slide that Ralphie famously slid down after his hopes and dreams were shattered in A Christmas Story. The slide may or may not be the actual slide used in the film. I’ve read the slide is a replica, but the folks at Castle Noel said it was the actual prop used in the movie. I guess I’ll never know for sure.
When I told Atticus where we were going, he was excited about the thought of getting to go down the slide, and couldn’t wait to get there.
Once we arrived, we sat waiting for our scheduled tour, when Mark Klaus, the owner of Castle Noel, greeted our group. In his hand he held a “lump of coal,” which was actually a chunky piece of chocolate that would be given to the winner of the trivia question. I won the coal with my answer of “Yukon Cornelius.”
As Mark Klaus turned his back to walk away, Atticus chased after him. “Excuse me,” Atticus said. Then he went on to ask whether Santa was nice or mean. Mr. Klaus assured Atticus that Santa was very nice, but he also added that one of the actors that played a mean elf in A Christmas Story works at Castle Noel and will sometimes reprise his role on Santa Klaus Mountain and yell at the people in line. This did not sit well with Atticus. A frightened look swept across his face, but he was quickly told that elf is not working today. Atticus breathed a sigh of relief, and told everyone he was glad the elf wasn’t going to there. The rest of us were a little disappointed.
Our tour began with a short video. Atticus sat quietly as Mark Klaus told the story of how Castle Noel came to be. We were then directed to go out the back door where cousin Eddie’s RV was waiting to be viewed. Mark Klaus has assembled quite the collection over the years, and this RV was a huge hit with others in our group. After a few family pictures were taken in front of the cruddy vehicle, we were directed back inside to view the first New York window display.
Each stop on the tour had a new guide – and there were several of them. When we approached the guide at the Santa’s Letters window display, Atticus asked him, “Is Santa Claus mean?” At this point I realized Atticus was going to obsess over Santa Claus’ personality throughout the tour – and I was right. Each time we were transferred to a new tour guide, Atticus asked the same question: “Is Santa Claus mean?” Each time he was told Santa is nice, and the mean elf wasn’t there, but Atticus obviously didn’t believe them. He continued to ask the same question over, and over, and over again.
Atticus enjoyed the tour as we made our way through the Polar Vortex and Chimney Squeeze. He didn’t seem to be bored by the many videos that explained the props and outfits from several Christmas movies, or the “I Had That” gallery that featured toys and board games from the 1950’s to the 1980’s, and he seemed enchanted by the New York holiday windows which featured moving figures, swirling lollipops, and twirling teacups.
Then came the grand finale. As we entered the double doors, we walked into a majestic Christmas experience featuring the sleigh from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and, of course, Santa Klaus Mountain and the Christmas Story slide. We took our time strolling through the room and viewing the beautiful Christmas tree and taking in the many relics on display.
True to the movie, once we approached the stairs to Santa Klaus Mountain, we had to wait…and wait… We chatted with the elf who was holding us at the bottom of the stairs. Atticus made sure to ask her if Santa was nice. He must have believed her when she said, “Yes,” as he bounded up the stairs when our chance finally came.
Atticus happily sat on Santa’s lap and told him that he wants a stereo for Christmas. They chatted for a few minutes and had their picture taken. Then it was time to ride the slide. All of the sudden, Atticus was too frightened to ride. We tried to talk him into going down. A friend who came with us said she would ride with him. I even offered to go with him, but he was adamant. He turned toward the stairs and walked away.
I rode the slide.
When I reached the bottom, Atticus wasn’t anywhere in sight. I was told that he decided he wanted to ride the slide after all, so he went back upstairs to see if they would let him. About five minutes later, my sweet boy made his way down the slide. When he reached the bottom, he was smiling – all his fears melted away – replaced with pure joy. I stood amazed, once again, at his ability to put his fear aside, and I took comfort in the thought that if he wants something bad enough in this life, he won’t let anything stop him.