First of all, I would like to apologize for the tardiness of this letter. While I find her hilarious, I certainly wouldn’t want to be like Sally Brown, only asking for what she wants, without being grateful for everything she already has. I can only explain my rudeness by saying that I didn’t really understand how important you were to me until many years later.
(This is what I’m trying to avoid.)
You see, it was 1996. My grandpa had died just before Thanksgiving, so everyone was still pretty sad. I was only six, though, and Christmas was still important in my eyes. I was focused on decorating cookies and singing “Jingle Bells” and planning for you and Baby Jesus to arrive on December 25 with my four-year-old brother. So, I was kind of detached from the loss of my grandfather, who I hadn’t really known because I was so young. In essence—I was just a little girl who was excited about Christmas.
And boy, what a Christmas. To this day, it still stands out to me as my favorite one of my childhood. First of all, it’s the first Christmas I really remember from my own memories, rather than the stories I’ve been told. Secondly, it was when I realized that presents, and giving in general, have a special kind of power. I have you to thank for this.
I received two major presents in 1996. The first was given to me by a family friend a few days before the holiday. Her name was Samantha Parkington. She lived in Gramercy Park, New York, with her Grandmary. She was 18 inches tall, with wavy brown hair, and a checked dress. I loved her instantly. My cousin had loaned me her Samantha doll the previous year, but this Samantha was my very own. Together with my faithful bear, Teddy, she was my constant playmate until I was ten or so. That Christmas Eve, I dressed her carefully in her Christmas dress, and tied her special white bow in her hair, and listened while my dad read The Night Before Christmas, until falling into an excited sleep.
Now, any kid knows that December 23 is the absolute longest day of the year. Experts may say it’s December 21, but they’re wrong. December 23 is the Day of Impatience. It’s not Christmas (obviously), but it’s not Christmas Eve, so you can’t even be excited about tomorrow being Christmas. On December 23, all your energy is focused on getting to Christmas Eve, so the whole day involves waiting and willing the clock to go faster, faster, faster! until you can go to bed and wake up on CHRISTMAS EVE, the day before the most bestest day in the year (besides birthdays).
So, with Samantha, and Teddy, and my little brother, I made it through December 23, and December 24, to wake up on DECEMBER 25, after your big night, and Jesus’ birthday, and presents and cookies and lights and maybe snow and CHRISTMAS OMIGOSH. After a family reading of the Gospel of Luke, Brother and I waited upstairs while Dad turned on the Christmas tree, and then we bounced down the stairs with Mom to oooh and ahhh at the lights and magic before diving into presents. It was your moment, Santa, and you delivered. For the only present I remember receiving that year besides Samantha, was a dollhouse. It was two stories, simple and wooden, and fully furnished. I quickly named the family inside after my own, because of the pretty blonde mother, and the dark haired father in a sweater, and the boy and girl who looked vaguely like me and my brother. I’d seen the dollhouse in a catalog, but I hadn’t even known I wanted it until it appeared under my tree. You had known, though, and you had carried it by sleigh 3,575 miles to bring it to me. In every picture I have from that Christmas, I look so excited, I could burst. These are my favorite pictures of just me on Christmas, and it’s all because of you. Thank you.
Now here’s where my apology gets tricky. You see, something happened in 1997 that shook my world a little bit and made me forget about the wonderfulness of Christmas 1996. In 1997, I lost some teeth and learned something unsettling about you and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. I never stopped believing in you, Santa, I promise! I know you and your fellow mythical creatures are the spirits of goodness and joy in the world, and that believing in you gives all of us the chance to believe in magic. And I am totally on board with magic and goodness and joy and cheer. But it was hard in 1997, to watch my brother unwrap his presents from you, and feel that something was missing from the morning, even though you still remembered me.
But that’s your other gift to me, Santa. Without the questions and answers of 1997, I would have never realized the truth about 1996. My dollhouse was picked out especially for me by a mom and a dad who knew and loved me so well that they knew I would be delighted by the surprise. And for me, that’s part of what Christmas is all about. It’s not about the presents themselves—it’s about giving something that shows you care about the recipient. It’s passing on goodness and joy and love and magic and cheer. For the rest of my life, I’m trying to live up to the gift of that dollhouse. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to give a gift as loving and generous, but I hope that one day, when I have a little girl, you’ll help me pick out something just as a wonderful.
It’s December 23, 2012, Santa. I’m sitting in front of my family’s Christmas tree, and even though I’m 22 now, I still wait for you every year. I wait for that feeling of warmth and light that wafts down my chimney and into the house. I look for you in the smiles on people’s faces, and I know that even though Christmas is kind of commercial, you and Jesus and the Tooth Fairy and Tinkerbell and the elves and Rudolph and Jack Frost are all working to bring love and magic. So thank you, Santa. Thank you for me, and Virginia, and all the children, young and old everywhere.