Yes, There Is A Santa
For as long as I can remember, I was always a believer in Santa Claus. It’s not something I inherited, but my parents didn’t do intentionally try to dispel my belief. However, when I was four I recall waking up in the middle of the night on Xmas Eve and coming downstairs to find my father eating Santa’s cookies. I was an angry little toddler and fearful that Santa wouldn’t come because of the theft. I later learned that my older sister had concluded that dad was the big guy, but I would have none of it. At six I remember coming down with tonsillitis on Xmas Eve when my parents were at a party. My older sister wanted to telephone them but I was terrified that if she went into the other room that Santa wouldn’t come. Never mind that at that time we lived on the seventeenth floor of an apartment building with no operable windows or chimney. That was immaterial. I knew he’d make it as long as no one snuck up on him.
When I became an adult I found myself collecting holiday films. As this season approaches I pull them out or flip the cable stations to find one, even if I’ve seen it a dozen times. And I always cry. Even though I was the one who decorated the house, filled the stockings, sent the cards and bought the gifts, I still believed in Santa Claus. He didn’t need to be seen. I suppose I felt him in my heart.
So when I had children, I made sure my twin daughters visited the department store Santas each year and faithfully wrote letters to him. Frankly, I wanted them to write the letters so I could know what they wanted for Xmas. I have unusual children who rarely ever asked for me to buy them anything. The letters were precious, with the misspellings and crayon illustrations. We would seal the letters and I would stamp them, but before I’d take them downtown to mail at the main post office I would slice them open and make a copy at my office—putting the original back inside the envelope. The very first letters were adorable. Emily asked Santa for a “baby doll and a paddd of papper”. (Spelled with three d’s and two p’s) and there was a PS: “I have been a very good girl.” Julia asked for some kind of a doll fish, which I never could quite figure out.
After mailing the letters, I then went forth looking for the perfect baby dolls and art supplies, a toy fish, and other goodies I knew they’d like. I would always buy special wrapping paper for the gifts that were to be from Santa and hide that paper under my bed. I’d use other wrapping for gifts that were to be from their dad and me. I wanted my girls to hold onto the magic that I remember believing in as a child.
On that particular Christmas morning, my mother-in-law, who traditionally stayed over Xmas Eve, went outside first thing to get the newspaper. She came in with the paper and handed me some items she said were on the doormat as well. One was a giftwrapped package, covered in an old fashioned looking Christmas wrap covered with jolly Santas. On top of the package were several loose odd paper pads from a printshop—the kind you use to select what paper you want the printer to use: multiple types of paper neatly overlapped and made into a pad. I was perplexed. Where did this come from? I thought hard whether we could have left some items outside from the previous night, but realized that was not possible. When I picked up the wrapped package there was writing in ink on a corner. It read : “To Emily who has been a good girl, love Santa.” My eyes got as big as saucers when I realized what those pads of paper were meant for. The box had to contain a “baby doll”.
I started jumping around. I couldn’t believe it. Emily’s letter was answered. At first I felt excitement and gratitude, but soon felt guilty and then frustrated. We weren’t needy, by far. We lived in a lovely house in an upper middle class neighborhood. Of all the thousands of letters to Santa that were mailed in Los Angeles, hers was answered. I started thinking of all the children in the city that wouldn’t have the gifts mine were getting, and at the same time I wanted so much to be able to thank whoever did this.
I assumed that there were people who worked or volunteered at the post office to handle the mail sent to the North Pole, but that didn’t diminish my sense of wonder and magic.
Once the girls woke up I knew that I couldn’t make a fuss over this gift because ALL of the presents were supposedly from Santa.
Four years later, in the late summer, Julia (age 7) received a letter. The return address was Menlo Park, CA. She was in grade school and I thought that perhaps it was from a pen pal organized by her teacher. She opened it and showed me a handwritten letter from Santa. It read “ Thank you for your kind letter. I’m sorry that I cannot send the photograph of myself and Mrs. Claus that you requested. We;ve been too busy here preparing for next Christmas to sit for a photo. Be a good girl, Love Santa. “ I was totally puzzled, as I had no idea that my daughter had sent off a letter in the summer. Julia explained that she wasn’t so sure about the whole Santa thing and she wanted concrete proof, so she thought she’d ask for a photo. She may not have gotten the proof she was seeking, but I did. The magic happened again! Both my daughters actually got responses from Santa. What were the odds of that happening?
When my girls were ten, I gave birth to a son. Evan grew to be quite artistic and so his letters to Santa were usually loaded with illustrations. One in particular was quite lovely, when he was 6 years old. I always followed the same routine, making a copy of the letter, and mailing the original at the main post office. On Christmas Eve a large shipping box arrived outside our new apartment. It was addressed to Evan and the return address was not a familiar one. I thought it was a gift from family that happened to come directly from the vendor. So it just went under the tree. When Evan opened it on Christmas morning, there was not a wrapped package inside the box—but there were all sorts of art supplies inside, paper, markers, colored pencils and water colors. And in the box, on top of all of this, was a note that read “Thank you for your beautiful letter. I thought you could use this”. And with the note, in the box, was Evan’s original letter to Santa. Oh my god. Once again, I was beside myself with wonder, gratitude, and guilt that my fortunate family was graced with the generosity of strangers. All three of my children were answered by Santa Claus, in different years, at different homes.
When I meet a Scrooge or get a Bah Humbug from anyone during this season, I like to tell them how Santa Claus came to our house three times, and it may not make them believe, but I know that the magic of that experience will keep the spirit of the season strong in our hearts forever.
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