Boy, I’ll bet this one caught you off guard. How long has it been? Honestly, I can’t remember. The other day, a thought popped into my head and I tried, really hard, to recall how old I was the last time I sent you a letter. Maybe I was 6, or 7, maybe even 8. That seems to be the age limit when kids stop writing to you, when we lose that sense of wonder to the realities of life. These days, I can only imagine how few even over the age of 5 write you letters anymore. You, more than anyone, would know what’s happened to childhood innocence and how little there seems to remain. Slap a computer pad into a kid’s hands at 4 and she’s just a few days away from studying either nuclear fission or looking at dance craze videos from the other side of the world.
Anyway, this is about you and me. I’m a lot older now, of course. More than a few silver hairs dotting the once redheaded landscape. Trying to keep from emulating your once famous pot belly, as I see current illustrators and such have you much leaner and faster on your feet. It’s about time. I mean, seriously, a gentleman of your years has to keep the body fit and trim, what with all the dashing about one night a year. Those elf cookies add up. Tell me about it.
I do recall the last time we were in touch, I had studiously been over the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogues, jotting down notes and tearing out pieces of page to show my parents. Those damn books…..oh, sorry Santa…..those darned books were so big and heavy, and why did they even bother with shoes, sweaters and furniture of all things? This was all about CHRISTMAS! Toys, toys, and more toys. And Sir, you did indeed deliver. Every single time. Though I still have to wonder if it was your idea or Mom’s idea to give me a bag of new socks every year.
It’s not about the toys anymore, Santa. Sure, it’s nice to get something to play with. But I have, for the most part, all the toys I need. I’m actually at the stage in life where I’m getting rid of a lot of toys and “stuff” gathered over the years. As the years pass, we understand that if it just sits on a shelf or in a box for a few years, the magic has run out and it’s time to go. I’m poring thru everything these days and keeping only those things that have a connection, a story behind them, that brings a smile to my face.
Which brings me to you, old friend.
A few days ago, I came across a very old toy. Not really a toy, actually. It’s a tiny plastic figure of you with your arms outstretched, meant to grab onto something. It’s an old car mirror attachment, and it has to be at least 30 years old, likely more. It’s knocked around in my stuff thru all the moves, the boxes, the warehouses, coast to coast and in-between. I’ve probably seen it several times over the years, and it never made me stop and think. Until this year. I saved it from the box and the dark, clipped it onto my mirror, spun the head around and look at it every time I get in the car. Have to tell you, the face is not the best incarnation of you and it’s showing the age. But it’s still Santa watching. A smile every time.
You see, Santa, despite being so much older and having been slapped in the puss with the realities of life, this Christmas has brought me to think more than twice about not just where I am, but where I’ve been, and where I hopefully still have to go.
With all the anger, the frustration, the stress and the challenges being an adult forces upon us, I needed you to know something we’ve never really talked about before.
I believe in you. Now, more than ever.
We both know I caught you one year. What was I, maybe 5 or 6? From my room I could see a tiny portion of the living room, and we both remember that early morning I woke from a noise, moved to the foot of the bed and looked in on a space lit only by the Christmas tree lights.
There you were, just a flash, an instant, a streak of white beard and red suit that lasted less than it takes a clock hand to make the trip from one second to another.
Mom and Dad both said I was only dreaming because Santa knows how to avoid being seen. You and I know better, don’t we? Even as the cobwebs gather in the gray matter, it’s an image of Christmas that remains fresh and so crystal clear.
I still see you, though of course now it’s in the figures on the tree, that big inflatable one right outside my window, (biggest on the block, in case you’re wondering), the classic TV specials that never ever get old, and in the faces of children.
Speaking of that inflatable, I have to share this with you.
Yesterday, temperatures dropping here in the land where anything below 70 degrees seems to be cause for panic, we had the doors and windows open to breathe in the crisp holiday air. A little after 5pm, Lady Shannon, (whom I know you will always treat well), told me to come to look out the front door.
Passing by on the sidewalk right in front of the house was a young mother with her child in a stroller. I’ve seen this lady before in the neighborhood and said hello, so I knew the little boy was maybe a year or so old. She happened to be passing the house at the precise moment you, in the guise of the inflatable of course, were coming to life. She stopped, right in front of you, and urged her child to watch. You could see his eyes and expression as he watched you rise. At the moment your doppelganger reached it’s full expression, I watched as the baby reached out with his right hand, trying to touch Santa. He did that for a few seconds, and mom moved on.
In that instant, that child believed in Santa. Thanks to Mom, perhaps one day he’ll reach into a memory cell and find that picture. Even if he never thinks of it again, it will be ingrained deep in the mental scrapbook.
Santa, you were so real to him in that moment. For all of us now, we so desperately need you to be real.
In my last letter to you, I know there were plenty of things I asked for. Generations before that letter was written, and to the present, much of what makes for Christmas is all about what people want on that day. For us, it has always been about what we can give to our families, our friends, even if it’s just a phone call with someone we haven’t spoken to in months or years. We really don’t spend a lot of time or money on buying things anymore. For us, it’s all about the experiences that will hopefully last a lifetime, and long after the things have been used and tossed aside.
If you will then, allow me to ask for a few things this Christmas.
I want one child to not go hungry tonight. I want one person living alone, perhaps with no family, to get a visit or phone call from someone that will make them smile. I want one dog, one cat, one animal living with no hope in a shelter, to be discovered and adopted by he person that will give them a forever home. I want one troubled kid somewhere to find a family, maybe even just one person, who will guide them to greater things and give them love. I want one person to stop and think for a moment before they say something nasty, pull it back and decide they did the right thing. I want one person spending their holiday in hospital to find a small sliver of hope thanks to those around them, those caring for them.
In relation to that, I want Lady Shannon to be the most inspirational nurse and caregiver to every person she comes in contact with. After decades of doing things for others, she dedicated herself to getting that degree and graduates tomorrow, becoming the most unique and caring Registered Nurse the profession could ever hope to have. I want her compassion and her love to touch and change lives every day, as they have mine.
Just one person.
I ask for just one in every instance because I understand how tough it is to change one life. My hope is that one will touch one more person. Then one more. And another. Perhaps in the end, that one action will touch millions.
Me? Smiles for my parents and Shannon’s parents. Joy and laughter for those 2 little grandkids just starting out in life. Many, many more years of snuggles and licks from Magnus and Bailey. Allow me the grace to accept I have been afforded so much more than so many others, and to use those gifts wisely.
So you see, there’s nothing here for your elves to make. It’s all about the intangibles of Christmas. The things I believe we all begin asking for as we realize there are fewer days ahead than there are in the rear view mirror.
I honestly don’t think you even have to “give” me any of this. My belief in you is what delivers the presents. The hope you bring to people of every age, those who indeed have their eyes all aglow this time of season for all the right reasons.
Santa, I doubt we’ll ever talk again like this. Of course, it’s always been I do the talking and you do the listening. That’s as it should be. I’ll whisper to you from time to time. I’ll smile when I think of you, or see your various helpers spreading your message from street corners to parades, from our Snoopy dressed as you to that inflatable on the lawn.
Thank you, Santa. Safe travels, always. Give Mrs. Claus a hug for me. An apple for each of the reindeer. Give the elves a high five for a job well done.
Thanks for allowing me to still believe in you, because I know you still believe in me.
Your friend, Edward.
(P.S. I won’t tell anyone else I saw you. It’s our secret).