Well, not quite… Just before Christmas, 1975, when I was eight years old, one afternoon the mailman delivered a curious letter marked “Special Delivery”, “Air Mail”, and the most exciting mark of all – “North Pole”! Was it really a letter from Santa addressed to me? No, but it was the next best thing – a letter from one of Santa’s elves, Ziggy! The letter read as follows:
North Pole – 9 Days to Go -16 December 1975
Santa is very busy. He asked me to write this letter because I am assigned to Philadelphia in the U.S. Twenty years ago I worked in Spain. Now I only work the U.S. since I learned how to read and write English.
Santa says all the kids want the same toys this year. He promised to do the best he can do to give you what is on your list.
Do you still have that black & white cat? Was your First Communion Day a nice one? Don’t tell any other kids about this letter because I don’t have time to write any of them and they’ll be jealous.
Felice Navidad. No! No! I mean Merry Christmas!
The letter was printed in block lettering that looked suspiciously like my father’s. The signature, however, did not resemble my father’s handwriting. I was confused. I was convinced he wrote it, but that did not diminish my belief in Santa Claus one bit! I remember thinking, even at 8 years old, that it was nice of my parents to do that for me. At the same time, I wondered if it was real – what if? The black and white cat was Lou C (see “Cats Ruled This Family”). The reason he asked about my First Communion Day was because it had only been about two weeks earlier. [Our parish priest decided our class was "not ready" in May, when First Communions are usually held. About 160 mothers nearly had a stroke when he told our parents the new date in December. They had visions of us freezing in our white dresses and suits. But God and our mothers' prayers prevailed...on December 6, 1975, the temperature in Philadelphia was 57 degrees, 20+ degrees warmer than usual. But, I digress...]
I bet you didn’t know that Santa had an elf named Ziggy. My parents told me long before that Ziggy accompanied Santa on his visits, so it wasn’t a surprise to see the name. Looking at the letter today with older eyes, I see a few other things. Like it appears that Santa is running a corporation of some sort with elves assigned to different parts of the world. He’s too busy? Doing what – shopping? The elves are the ones making the toys, right? He promises to do his best? I thought you sent your letter to Santa to get what you wanted! Apparently Santa is a slave-driver, because poor Ziggy is too busy to even write to any other kids. And it’s a good thing he learned English, because his memory of how to say Feliz Navidad is a little rusty!
With my old(er) eyes, I guess I’ve been “affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age” but like “faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance” it’s the wonderful things parents do for their children that “make glad the heart of childhood”. And that is what I see clearly! Thanks for the memory, Ziggy. I hope you’re not retired so you can pay a visit to my house this year. I moved since then, and there’s no cat to welcome you, but I have a feeling you’ll visit anyway – if you’re not too busy! [Quotes from Francis Church's letter to Virginia O'Hanlon in 1897.]