These days kids can email Santa.
That makes sense, I guess. After all, handwritten letters have mostly gone the way of the passenger pigeon. But, while I certainly appreciate the convenience of modern forms of communication, I still really love “snail mail.” That’s one of the reasons why I cherish the holidays. It’s the only time of year when my mailbox is stuffed with more than bills and ads and the occasional postcard.
I know some say it’s a waste of paper and for many people sending a large stack of holiday cards is just too expensive. I also understand how silly it seems these days to send mail to someone who lives ten miles from you, someone who you’ll see at least three times on Facebook and maybe even in real life before the letter arrives. I don’t care. I love mail. I love hand-addressed envelopes and stamps and postmarks and the snick of the adhesive tearing free. And you know what? Some of those people who live ten miles from you and talk to you on Facebook all the time will say something completely new and unexpected in a card. There’s just something about slowing down and picking up a pen and putting a little distance between your words and the person who’ll read them that makes writing a letter different.
My love of mail comes from my dad, who worked for the post office for over thirty years. I remember visiting him at work when I was a kid, how I liked the smell of the building—ink and paper mostly—and how I enjoyed sitting at his desk and playing with all the colored pens in his drawer. My dad’s been retired for a long time now, but during his years at the post office he did almost every job there, from mail carrier to supervisor. For a few years, he even played the role of Santa. In the late sixties, when he was working as a Distribution/Window Clerk, he responded to thirty or forty Santa letters a year from the children in town.
I love how in the letter above Polly tells Santa she’s going to keep his letters for her children because she knows he’ll “be even more famous then.” This girl is really thinking ahead. 🙂
No one at the post office had written Santa letters before. It was just something my dad decided to do. When I asked him what sorts of things he wrote to the kids, he said he’d tell them it was snowing and they were really busy at the workshop, that the sleigh was almost full and Mrs. Claus was baking Christmas cookies. He’d tell them to be good and mind their parents and try hard in school.
“If they had done something they were proud of,” my dad said, “like the little boy who didn’t wet the bed anymore, I told him he was doing great, and that I was real proud of him. I never promised them anything. To close out, I would usually say that old Donner or Blitzen or somebody was looking in through the window, and I had to get my boots and coat on, and go out to the barn and feed, or that it was about time to get the team hitched up.” He said he just did it because he liked it. His favorite letters were the repeats, the ones he got from the same kids multiple years, and the unselfish ones, where the sender asked for something for someone else.
That last comment gave me pause. I don’t think I ever considered asking for gifts for other people in my letters to Santa. It warms my heart to know there are kids that selfless in the world.
Santa letters are special. All personal letters are special. Opening up your mailbox and seeing a colored envelope addressed to you makes you feel good. Turning over a postcard to see who sent it and what they chose to write in that small space is exciting. When you think about it, it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day. Before the year is over, send someone you love a piece of mail that will make them smile. Don’t worry about sending a card to everybody you know. And who cares if you didn’t take a family holiday photo this year? It doesn’t even matter if the recipient is your next door neighbor. Write a short letter and stamp it and put it in the mail. You may find that it feels just as good to send mail as to receive.
As for me, I think I’ll write Santa an email. I owe him a thank you note that’s long overdue.
Merry Christmas, everyone! Note: Speaking of chemistry sets, if you’d like to read my dad’s story, in his own words, of the time he blew up his fifth grade classroom, click on the links below. Part 1 is about my own (less explosive) experiences with science fair, so feel free to skip that part and move on to the good stuff in Parts 2 and 3. It’s a long story but, in my opinion, it’s worth the read. 🙂
* Science Fair (or The Time My Dad Blew Up the Fifth Grade), Part 1
* Science Fair (or The Time My Dad Blew Up the Fifth Grade), Part 2
* Science Fair (or The Time My Dad Blew Up the Fifth Grade), Part 3