I’m on my way to the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular in New York City, Barry’s and my annual Christmas gift to our children and grandchildren… all 19 of us! And I’m thinking of a perfect Christmas letter to Santa from my archives. It’s a letter my mother wrote to Santa in 1931…
As a kid, what did you ask Santa to bring you?
I live in a very old New England home with lots of nooks and crannies. And the nooks and crannies are what make my home like Disney World to my grandchildren. There’s always something to discover.
Take my laundry area, for example. On my second floor, there is a fairly deep closet adjacent to a good-sized fireplace. I have no idea what that storage area was originally used for… but now it houses my stacking system. You know. Washer and dryer. There is a long pull-chain to pull on the light in that little space. And attached to the end of that pull-chain is a little red Santa that I forgot to pack away with the Christmas decorations a few years ago. Well, that Santa pull-chain is my ace-in-the-(laundry)-hole entertainment when my grandchildren are visiting. There is nothing quite like pulling that Santa pull-chain light on and off. On and off.
And, of course, this Santa raises lots and lots of questions. Like, “What did you ask Santa to bring you when you were a little girl?” We always have the greatest conversations around that little Santa. I usually begin with, “Well, we didn’t have Star Wars or Diego or Indiana Jones or DVD’s back then.” This shock keeps them quiet long enough for me to add, “But we did have sleds and Barbie and Slinky and Silly Putty.” We laugh and talk… and wish.
Then… and the best of all… I always say, “Now let’s go read Grandma Rita’s letter to Santa.” Grandma Rita is MY mother. And yes, I do have a letter that she wrote to Santa. 77 years ago. And the story of how I have this letter is more precious than any gift of all. My mom was born and grew up in Brighton, Massachusetts. She was the second child, and oldest daughter, of Edward and Mary Burke. Ed and Mary would go on to have 7 children, 2 boys and 5 girls, but in December of 1931… Rita was the adored 6 1/2 year old daughter to my grandfather. Edward was a fireman in the city of Brighton. My mom remembers him wearing his uniform. She remembers him fighting fires. She remembers his pride in his profession. But safety was different in those days… and my grandfather succumbed to lung cancer, after a long battle, when my mom was 18 years old.
This is where the Letter to Santa comes in. When my grandmother was given the contents of her husband’s locker at the Brighton Fire Department, there was a letter among the other items. The letter was written from his little girl, Rita, to Santa… dated December 12, 1931. In that letter, a little girl asked for what little girls today may ask for. “A doll with long curls. A bathrobe and slippers. A raincoat and hat. A set of aluminum dishes.” (Well, maybe not the specifically “aluminum” dishes!) My grandfather kept that letter. I can picture him reading that letter again and again. From what I have heard of my grandfather, I can imagine that he worked as hard as he could to make his little girl’s wishes to Santa come true.
My mom found this letter among my grandmother’s possessions when she died in 1982. And I found this letter among some of my mom’s things during a move she made many, many years ago. In 2001, I rediscovered this letter in my most special box of things. I had the letter and the envelope framed. And I bought each of the items for my mom. (Even the aluminum dishes!) It is the best gift Christmas gift I have ever given to anyone. Ever. And I’m willing to bet it’s the best gift my mom ever received.
My mom told me that her biggest wish is that I have the framed letter and envelope in my home… as a constant reminder that wishes to Santa do come true. Even if it is 70-some-odd years later.
For me, the letter is a reminder of the greatest love. A love of a daddy for his daughter. A love that truly has no end. I have proof. And now my grandchildren will always know the true meaning of “Dear Santa…”