“Hey Tooth, over here!” he shouted waving his arm from the third row. It had been a hundred years since the last MFA meeting, but she recognized the crimson jacket with white trim immediately.
“Good to see you,” she said, squeezing down the row past other familiar faces. “Hard to believe another meeting is here already. E.B., you still recovering from the holiday a few weeks ago?”
“Yeah, it gets harder every year. I don’t know how you do it all year long, Tooth.”
“I get a lot of help. It’s all in how you delegate, my friend.”
A hearty laugh shot out from the man in the red jacket as he stroked his beard. “You can say that again. If I didn’t delegate, I would’ve been washed up years ago. The Mrs. helps out quite a bit, too. She’s really the backbone behind the whole operation. I’m just the front man.”
“So what’s the scoop?” Tooth asked. “Any good gossip? I hope the leprechauns and elves don’t get into it again this year.”
E.B. pushed his ears back. “You know they will. Happens every time. Always trying to ‘one up’ each other. Can’t you do something about your elves, Santa?”
“I have no control over them, probably less than ever. Since the last meeting, they’ve unionized. Oh, I don’t even want to go into the trouble I’ve had this century.”
It wasn’t just Santa that had been having trouble the past hundred years. Anxiety pervaded this meeting of the Mythical Figure Association. Not only had the 20th century seen more change than any other, but also the next millennium was about to begin, and there was concern that myth may disappear completely.
“Santa, you aren’t the only one who’s had headaches,” E.B. said. “Look at the Boogie Man over there. Hollywood has killed his career. Remember when the mere mention of him would terrify kids. Now, he’s lucky to even startle someone.”
Tooth shook her head. “The same can be said for the Sand Man. People used to lie back and wait for him to visit. Now they don’t bother. They pop a few pills, have a few drinks, or simply watch TV to fall asleep.”
E.B. pointed to the front. “We’re about to start. Jack is walking on stage.”
A man with a chilly demeanor stepped up to the podium. “Please take your seats everyone. It’s time to get started. Please, everyone.”
“Leave it to Frost to ruin a good time,” one of the elves yelled from the back.
Not to be outdone, a leprechaun said, “We should have our next meeting in Bermuda. Let’s see how spunky you are there, Jack.”
“Come on, now,” Jack said, seemingly unfazed. “Isn’t it a little early for you guys to start in? Usually, you wait until at least lunch.”
Whispers of laughter tempered the palpable anticipation.
Jack said, “On behalf of the MFA, I would like to welcome everyone to the 21st centennial meeting, Myth and the Millennium. First, I would like to thank our host, who graciously makes his home our home. Santa, please stand.”
The crowd applauded as Santa waved to the crowd.
“Before I introduce our keynote speaker, I would like to say how excited and honored I am to kickoff this very important and crucial conference. I still haven’t decided if it was a decision based on merit, or just an attempt to influence me to go easy with the weather. Regardless, it is indeed a great honor.
“I hope everyone has received their packets of information and has spent some time going over the contents. I think the Steering Committee has done an outstanding job including something for everyone. At this time I also would like to thank the Grim Reaper and Johnny Appleseed for volunteering their time to work the registration booth.
“As I look out into the crowd, I’m reminded of the resources each of us has in our peers. It’s a rare opportunity for each of us to spend a week with one another, and it’s through our support and friendship that we can embrace these turbulent times.
“Our speaker today is no stranger to any of us. He’s been with us since the—well, the beginning of time. His patience, wisdom, and vision have earned him the respect of all. Over the years, people have taken him for granted, attempted to steal here and there, and occasionally tried to beat him at his own game. But he has always withstood the tests posed to him, never judging, merely offering compassion. He is ever inching on, steadily, confidently. Today, he will be giving a speech titled The Time Is Now. Please put your cold hands together for Father Time.”
The crowd rose and cheered wildly, continuing for several minutes.
Father Time warmly smiled while he waited for the applause to subside. “Standing before you today, I can’t help but think about the last time I spoke. The changes that have occurred the past hundred years amaze me probably more than any other century. But it’s more than the changes that pose such a contrast. It’s the mood. At the beginning of the last century there was a mood of celebration, of anticipation, of hope for the years to come. While I feel some of the excitement is still there, the intention and underlying feelings of people are quite different.
“In the 19th century, the world was on the move, economies were growing, and the future held promise. While economies now appear stronger than ever, the future is much more uncertain. And some people, rather than focus on going somewhere, are propelled more by a desire to escape, to flee from the current circumstances. Their faith in tradition and ritual has been replaced by a myopic vision of self-service. This, in turn, has greatly affected each of us. The role of myth is now equated with that of fiction, of make-believe. Our roles as educators and vehicles to adulthood have been transformed to one of entertainment. ‘What’s in it for me?’ is the question on each human’s mind.
“Due to an improved economic climate, many of the issues and problems I speak of today are ignored on a daily basis. But they are not invisible. Children are told that to dream is to be unrealistic, and to be real, one must be practical, yet practicality seems to be rooted in the safe, in the mundane. The once quiet desperation has now become quite deafening, recognizable in the faces and actions of youth. Accordingly, it has greatly affected other dimensions of the population from parents, grandparents, teachers, politicians, even us.
“Judging from the conversations I have already had with some of you, it goes without saying that never has there been a more critical meeting than this one. What I hope to accomplish in my speech today and in my time here this week is to make each of you realize that the past is behind us, that The Time is Now. Our concern for the future is real, but the time to address it is now. Times have changed, but they have changed for a reason. If the ‘good old days’ were so good, why did they change? Gone are the simplicity and the innocence of yesteryear, but in their place are more enlightened, educated individuals, more conscious of the world in which they live than any other time. So I ask you, as you sit down with your colleagues and are tempted to reminisce about the past, be cautious of how many of your stories begin with ‘Back in the day.’ Remind yourself, the time is now. Thank You.”
The meaning and impact of Father Time’s words hung in the air long after the applause subsided. His words assuaged the tension previously saturating the air, as if Father Time’s speech had held up a large mirror and said, ‘Look at yourself.’”
Jack Frost stepped behind the microphone and stared longingly into the crowd, perhaps trying to find the right words, perhaps waiting for the right time.
“It has never been easy. All of us know that. We feel as if we are on an island with no one in the world to help us. Again, I want to reiterate my point from my opening comments: reach out to those around you. You are not in this alone. Think about the next meeting a hundred years from now. What do you want to be talking about? Let’s create the vision and go build it. I thank you for the opportunity to speak and hereby declare the 21st conference of the Mythical Figure Association open. I hope you not only benefit from the conference but enjoy yourselves as well.”
As the various figures filed out of the hall, Santa spoke first. “Well, it seems we have our work cut out for us. Which seminars are you planning to attend?”
E.B. said, “I don’t know. There are so many good ones. I hope they repeat throughout the week so I have a chance to see them all. Listen to some of these, Marketing for the Millennium, Technology: Friend or Foe, and Blastoff – Empowering Your Employees.”
Tooth said, “I especially like Belief: It Starts With You! and People Not Profits.”
As the three old friends approached the door, someone frantically entered the hall.
E.B. said, “Hey Cupid, running late today? You look a little haggard.”
“Oh, hey. Did I miss the opening ceremony? I had a heck of a time getting here. I’ve been so busy lately. You know, it’s that time of year. Love is in the air. I’m so looking forward to this week.”
“I think we all need to take some time for ourselves,” Santa said. “The registration booth is out in the lobby. There should still be someone there for late arrivers.”
“Thanks, I’ll catch up with you later. Save a seat for me at lunch.”
The Easter Bunny, Santa, and the Tooth Fairy walked into the lobby in silence.
Tooth motioned toward the registration booth. “Look at that. As much as I worry about what the future holds, I know the answers are right here with us. Where else can you see the Grim Reaper, Johnny Appleseed, and Cupid conversing with one another except at an MFA meeting? I think it’s going to be a good century.”