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A Message to Santa

Tis the season when small children write letters to Santa Claus, often providing their parents with helpful hints for shopping.  Charlottesville author Deborah Prum is no kid, but she likes the tradition of writing to the jolly old man up North and shares this year’s letter with listeners.

Dear Santa:

As you might remember, when I was seven, all I wanted for Christmas was a live horse and a real gun. I envisioned myself patrolling our neighborhood, on the lookout for bad guys.  I didn’t intend to shoot the bad guys, only brandish my firearm, telling them, “Stop picking on the little guys.  Be good or else.”

And Santa, you know we did have some actual bad guys in our neighborhood, two gangs similar to the Sharks and Jets, but our gangs called themselves The Earls and The Lords.  They sounded like British royalty, instead of the petty criminals which they were. I’m guessing those bad guys routinely wound up at the top of your Naughty List. To be honest, the Earls and Lords bothered other adults, not us. So, the bad boys I was after were the ones on the playground who knocked us off of our bikes and gave killer wedgies.

Back to the horse. You’re probably wondering where I planned to keep the animal since I lived in a brick apartment building with asphalt behind and concrete out front. Neither place offered much in the way of grazing. The horse could have nibbled on the tiny square of grass by the front stoop, but that “hardly would have filled his eye tooth” as my Italian relatives like to say.

And, how about that gun?  How likely were my parents to allow me to ride around pointing a gun at people? My folks came from a long line of pacifists.  Moreover, they were not the kind of crazy people who would consider arming a small child.  Did I let those facts stop me from requesting a gun and horse each year?

Ever the optimist, I’d peer out my bedroom window on Christmas morning expecting see a horse tethered to the doorknob of my father’s little upholstery shop. Santa, you never delivered the live horse and the real gun.  Instead, I’d find one of my father’s white tube socks filled with onions and small change. To be fair, other presents sat under the tree, which soon made me forget about the lack of a live horse.  

When I was about ten, I gave up on you.  I realized there was no way you could fit down the stovepipe of our gas range. Yet, that year a medium-sized box with my name on it arrived under the tree before Christmas. Could it be a gun? Dare I hope?

Turned out, my grandfather had given me a Rainbow children’s Bible, the one with Jesus on the cover, peacefully sitting on a rock, teaching a large group of children who also look quite peaceful (and a little Swedish--fair skin, blond hair, blue eyes). So, my gift was a Bible, not the gun for which I’d pined. Even at that tender age, the irony was not lost on me.

As disappointed as I was to receive the Bible, I’ll concede that the “Love your enemies” style of relating to people advocated in the book of Matthew is a better way to deal with folks than my “Hands up! Behave or else!” method of crowd control.  

However, the cover on that Rainbow Bible still gives me pause. Why would all those pale Swedish kids be sitting around Jesus right in the middle of the burning hot desert? They’re not wearing hats and likely did not apply sunscreen.  It just doesn’t make sense.

Regardless, at a time where there’s not much of either, here’s to peace on earth and goodwill toward men.

                                                                      Happy holidays, Santa!
                                                                                Lots of love and I really mean it.

Dear Santa is excerpted from a longer piece in Charlottesville Family and is reprinted with their permission.  More of Deborah Prum’s essays can be found here.

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