November is NATIONAL FAMILY CAREGIVERS MONTH. While caring for an elderly loved one, it’s easy to see the challenges of the present and future, but glimpses from the past often bring magical presence to the present…
My Mother’s Letter to Santa: dated December 12, 1931
There is one treasure in my home that is beyond measure, and this is my Mom, Rita’s, handwritten letter to Santa, dated December 12, 1931. Each time I read this letter, I see my Mom as a 6-year old girl, and I enjoy her innocence, the magic of her words and her here-and-now BELIEF captured in her own hand…
Yes, I do have the letter that my Mom wrote to Santa 81 years ago; and the story of how I came to have this letter is as precious as the letter itself.
My Mom was born and grew up in Brighton, Massachusetts. Rita was the second child, and oldest daughter, of Edward and Mary Burke. Edward and Mary would go on to have more children, 7 children – 2 boys and 5 girls in total – but in December of 1931, Rita was the adored 6 1/2-year old daughter of my grandfather. Edward was a fireman in the city of Brighton. My mom remembers her Dad wearing his uniform. She remembers him coming home from fighting fires. She remembers his pride in his profession. But safety was different in those days, and my grandfather succumbed to lung cancer in 1943, 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 Station, there was a letter among the other items. The letter was written by 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…
49 Saybrook St
December 12 1931
I would like you to bring a doll with long curls, a bath robe and slippers raincoat and hat and a set of aluminum dishes.
a good girl
(Well, a little girl today may not ask for aluminum dishes!)
My grandfather kept that letter. I can picture him reading and re-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 my Nana died in 1982; 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 Christmas 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’s decades later.
Now, I read and re-read Rita’s letter with my own 9 grandchildren, just as I picture my grandfather doing at the Brighton Fire Station. 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” through the heart and hand of their Great-Grandma Rita and the heart of their Great-Great-Grandfather Edward, who saved this precious letter.
I do believe that while caring for an elderly loved one, it’s easy to see the challenges of the present and future, but glimpses from the past often bring magical presence to the present. Sometimes we just have to search a little and listen a lot to see.
If you are a caregiver or know a caregiver, please visit/refer to aarp.com/caregiving for caregiving resources.
I am a member of AARP’s Kitchen Cabinet on Caregiving and Caresupport. I am not receiving compensation of any kind for my opinions/views. November is NATIONAL FAMILY CAREGIVERS MONTH and I am helping to get the word out about elder care issues.