• Otter Views: Christmas Wishes

    Since our paths won’t cross again before Christmas, let me wish you a merry one and forward some wishes from another December. These were letters written to Santa by first graders. One of my favorites betrayed both the writer’s impatience and his willingness to ply Santa with a little flattery.

    “Dear Santa,” it began. “How are you? Are you fin? Santa how are you cuming? Santa wen are you cuming? I like the toy that you bring us. I like you and your ilfs. I am good at my firens. Love, Kyle.”

    The Rosetta Stone of grammar school spelling suggests Kyle inserted that last line because he had been warned that misbehaving at his friend’s house might incur Santa’s displeasure. I’d further guess the admonition came from Kyle’s mom.

    Another mom prompted this letter from Josiah.

    “Dear Santa Claus,” it began, “My mom is mad and I want a cat fo hr. I want a snake fo hr. I want a dog fo hr. I want a Kangaroo fo hr. Love, Josiah.”

    The message here? If your mom is mad, have Santa shower her with live animals and reptiles. She’ll brighten right up. Animals did show up elsewhere in the 229 Santa letters I studied. Cats and kittens clawed out a 16-14 victory over dogs and puppies, while horses and turtles also made it onto a couple of lists.

    Most of the wish list entries were fairly predictable: whatever video games, Big Foot trucks and Barbie hotel play sets the toy industry was flacking that year. More interesting were the messages that lay between those penciled, block-lettered lines of print.

    Noe asked Santa to bring her mom “a phone in her own room, please.” Jennifer wanted “my two front teeth, because I look silly.” And Jan wanted “my grandma Ikeda and grandpa Fujimoto to get well.” One writer wanted: “a dad.”

    Jojo wanted “a real cow so we don’t half to buy milk.” Dustin asked for “$200 because my mom and dad need more room.” Holulani wanted “my grandpa Emilio to come home from the hospital,” a sentiment shared by Darshan.

    “I know you are very bissy,” Darshan wrote. “I learned caring, sharing and giving in school. I have been good. I am reading in school. But not doing book reports. Plese let my mom go out of the hospital.”

    If asked to define Christmas, I couldn’t do any better than that – “caring, sharing and giving,” without the book reports. As I pored over the 229 letters – some succinct (“Please bring me a drum”) others plumped out with biographies, weather reports and inducements for Santa – I was heartened that most kids wanted something for somebody else.

    Babies, rocking chairs or “dimen rings” for their moms; fishing tackle, Ford trucks and tools for their dads; medicine and long life for their grandparents. For their siblings, cousins and “firens,” they asked Santa to bring a sleigh load of Supermen, pencil boxes, high heels, go-karts, “sarfing boards,” sandals, roses, dinosaurs and yo-yos.

    It was enough to humble a humbug. Even the personal requests were enlightening. My favorites included Ralph’s wish for “shoes with shoelaces,” Aiko’s hint that “my dad needs a niw secretary,” Kristin’s request for “500 packs of chalk,” and Crystal’s thoughtful offer to have Santa “sleep over” at her house if he’s too tired.

    There were mysteries as well: the line “I do not wot het muc preses” shows up in three letters; “I do not like gush for crèmes” in a fourth; and “hiyheyos to Sum Canbey, a lamto, I wunt buzzol, I wunt ba,” in another. It may be Greek to us, but not to Santa.

    I don’t recall my own six-year-old Christmas wish, but it probably included a model train. The family had moved from Hawaii to Colorado Springs that year so my dad could sell a former house. The only real train I’d seen up to that point was the switchyard engine that pulled pineapple cars from Dole cannery to nearby Honolulu Harbor. It wasn’t exactly the California Zephyr.

    But in Colorado Springs, a Santa Fe Railroad “streamliner” thundered past our neighborhood every afternoon in a blur of gold and orange. My brother and I would run through a brushy field to stand in awe as the great engine and its passenger cars racketed past.

    As if that weren’t enough, our dad walked us down the snowy street one afternoon to visit a neighbor’s hand-built G gauge model train layout. This wonder merits a column of its own, so I won’t go there now. We’ll exit instead at the Tin Cannery, where model railroad layouts last weekend dazzled a room full of first-graders and first graders at heart, including your correspondent.

    Merry Christmas, and be good at your firens.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on December 20, 2013

    Topics: Otter Views

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