I was seven.
I don’t remember what I asked for, don’t remember what was so important that year that made me ask Santa for it in writing, a sort of insurance that I would definitely get it. It wasn’t part of our Christmas tradition to write letters to the Big Guy.
I don’t even remember putting the letter in the mail. Likely I gave it to my mother and she took it to the post office, addressed to “Santa: North Pole” – all it took to reach its destination safely. Everyone knows where to send letters to Santa.
But does everybody always get one back?
When our kids were little we took their letters to a local fire station by a certain date in December and they received a letter in response by Christmas, a pre-printed thing with a picture of Santa on the paper. Later the kids wrote “Merry Christmas” letters to Santa on Christmas Eve and set them out with the cookies and carrots we left for him and his reindeer. He always wrote back to them, leaving them a little thrill in the morning along with an empty plate and glass, a stuffed stocking and at least one specially-wrapped gift for each of them. Did I save these responses after we read them on Christmas morning? Probably. I don’t know where they are offhand, but I could probably find them if I looked.
I know exactly where my letter from Santa is.
Some days before that long-ago Christmas, we got a letter in the mailbox addressed to me. I opened it, confused. I read the loopy scrawl, transfixed, my stomach floating. Was it for real? Santa told me that his belly was more like a bowl full of Jello instead of jelly, and he thanked me for being good that year. Some words about his reindeer and Mrs. Santa were all it took for my belief to solidify.
HE wrote it. Santa.
To this day my mother swears she didn’t write it. My mother has beautiful handwriting; Santa doesn’t. I’ve written enough responses to my own kids’ letters to Santa to know that altering your natural way of writing into a completely different one is extremely difficult to do. She says that she was just as surprised as we were to get a letter back that year. I only found this out a few years ago. I always assumed that she wrote it.
We talk about kind postmen, a group of volunteers nearby who write and send out Santa letters in the weeks before Christmas. People whose job it is, for a few weeks a year, to keep magic alive in the hearts and minds of local children. It’s not a bad job.
That letter from Santa kept my belief alive for a while after that year, even though I never got a response back after that one letter.
But it was enough for me. Even though eventually I figured out that there was no jolly old elf flying a sleigh full of toys over the world every Christmas Eve, that letter from Santa still tells me that there are good people in the world who believe that a with a little effort, a simple act of kindness is just a good thing to do.
This post inspired by:
Prompt #1: Write (or share) a letter to Santa.