CELEBRITY SIGHTING : You say you’ve seen Springsteen in a bar or Chris Rock at the mall? Big deal. Santa’s been hanging out in Westwood. Yep. Even passed through my neighborhood Thursday night. And while the shrieking youngsters might not have noticed, he looked remarkably like firefighter Beau Hodges.
Boy, Santa sure looks like….
That’s the odd thing, too: Chief Marc Fedorchak says Santa resembles a different member of his squad each night. A Christmas miracle, really.
As joyful as it was to watch the youngsters fawn over the season’s MVP, this evening truly had a Beau on top.
Hodges’s hero of a stepbrother — the late Marine Sgt. Christopher Hrbek — recently had the local post office named after him. It was a reverent but deeply painful ceremony for those who came to pay tribute to a young man killed by an explosive device in Afghanistan.
What better remedy this time of year than the giggles of innocents Hrbek swore to protect clutching lollipops they got from Hodges — I mean, Santa?
The youngsters could hear the jolly man coming tonight, as a musical selection that cleared a gap from Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” to Stevie Nicks’s version of “Silent Night” blared from loudspeakers that had some serious woofers on ‘em.
The reindeer rode atop the firetruck with Beau — I mean Santa — instead of in front of a sleigh. Can’t be giving them a heavy lift with nine days left till Christmas.
And Santa’s helpers — most of them in their yellow reflective coats — were glad to chat up the residents, one of them a war vet and longtime Westwood native who set out a table and a cooler of longnecks for them.
Santa brought goodies for the kids, and, like the rock star he is, posed for pics (No autographs, please). It was definitely more than a quick whistle stop.
And that’s the charm of the small-town America we know here in North Jersey.
Big-city bustle certainly has its place at Christmastime. But so does the homey, working-class familiarity of a town like Westwood. Everyone might not know your name, but they’ll look a stranger in the eye, smile and say, “Merry Christmas.” Or they’ll put out a tray of sandwiches and salads on a 28-degree night.
Even Santa will take a moment from his crazy schedule to stop and say hello, before making his mad dash around the globe.
Coming to a neighborhood near you….
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