This is another re-post, if there is such a word, of something I wrote a couple of years ago, about something I wrote many, many years ago. Some may have seen it before, some not. In any event, it is something I think about this time of year, every year.
1977 Letter To Santa Claus
In my life as a journalist and columnist, I have written tens of thousands of words, most, if not all, forgettable, but some have stuck with me over the years, and during this time of the year, I remember some of those words that have stuck. This TBT post deals with those words.
It’s Christmas time, and on a cold winter’s night, I sit here in my 1975 Rollohome, with some of my favorite Christmas music playing on the box, a good glass of Cabernet in hand, Bailey and Brandy, my two Siamese friends nearby, and I recall memories from other Christmas holidays. This is one of those memories for me. One, I will never forget.
The year was 1977. I was living in Grand Forks in a small apartment in the back of a house in the Riverside Park area, a house on Lewis that at the time was right next to the dike. At the time I was divorced, and working at The Center for Human Development, which later would become part of the mental health centers across the state. I was in the Training and Education Department, and Pete Porinsh was my boss. One of my jobs there was to write a column on mental health issues for weekly papers in the area served by the Center.
It was December, and nearing Christmas. I was sitting in my apartment one weekend day, I believe it was a Sunday, in front of the word processor of the day, my trusty Classic 12 Smith Corona portable typewriter, feeling the stress of the holiday season.
I was feeling blue, missing all of the magic of Christmas with my son and the family that once was. It didn’t make it any easier that I was the one who had made the bed I was in, but the sadness remained. It is my wont during times like that, I often write, if only just for myself. This was to be just such a time. I was wondering what I could write about that would make the Christmas season a little more bearable for me.
Then it struck me out of the blue. I said to myself, “I shall write a letter to Santa Claus.”
More precisely, a single parent’s letter to Santa Claus. So I did. I thought then, “This is really strange,” but it felt right, so I set to work on my typewriter, not knowing what was going to show up on the blank page in front of me.
I looked at it after I wrote it, and thought it might not be perfect, but was good enough to take to the editor of the Grand Forks Herald. After I read it over a few times, I felt good about it, and to treat myself, I went to Whitey’s for a beer and a burger.
A day or so later, I took myself to the Herald office, and asked to see the editorial page editor, thinking that this wasn’t exactly a news item. I was directed to Tom Shoemaker, who was then the Managing Editor and Editorial Page Editor.
Now, I didn’t know what to expect, nor did I have any realistic expectation that he would accept my offering for publication. As a writer you get used to rejection. It goes with the territory.
We chatted a bit and then he read it, and after a few minutes, he allowed as how he had never seen anything quite like this, and I allowed that I had never written anything quite like that. He asked me if they could publish it, and I told them that was fine with me, thinking it would be inside on what would become known in later years, as the Op-Ed page.
Later, to my surprise, it appeared on the front page of the Christmas Eve edition of the Herald, which was, at the time, still an afternoon paper. Not only was it on the front page, it was the only Christmas story on the front page that day. Surprised, and pleased, I stopped by Pete’s house, and we toasted it properly that Christmas Eve.
As I read it again today, less than two weeks before Christmas, it makes me smile, and I think of that son, who today, with his wife and son, are making their own Christmas memories. And, as it was 39 years ago, I will not see him, nor will I see that grandson, who is now growing up so fast.
Who knows, maybe Santa will stop by and leave a message for them all.
Here it is, as it appeared that Christmas Eve so long ago.
This is a better view of the letter.
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE
Bob, Bailey and Brandy.
I left Bailey’s name on the greeting, even though she is gone now. It seemed appropriate.