Letters to Santa
My name is Peter and Im 5 years old and I wanna baseball and a bat and a red fire truck that makes noise
Mom says times is tuff even for Santa so if you cant bring the fire truck is okay. But plez could you help Daddy get home for Chrissmas. He promised to be here but he promised last year too. Maybe you could give him a ride in your slay. Mommy is very sad and cries alot. It wood make her hapy for him to come home.
P.S.: I dont really need the bat and ball but please bring Mommy a new blue dress.
Dear Mr. Claus:
First of all, I don't believe in you. My dad says it isn't intelligent to believe in things that are strictly a product of imagination because they have no real value in life and can only serve to distract us from what is important--the study of pure science. However, I have recently had an experience with an entity that is supposed to be just imaginary. Therefore, I am forced to admit there is a possibility that you do exist.
I asked my mom if my dad was right, that you are just a fictional character made up by parents to manipulate their children into more appropriate behavior, especially as the holidays draw near. She never really answered me, but smiled like she knew a secret and wasn't allowed to tell. I must assume, therefore, that this could be taken as evidence that you are real.
Since this possibility exists, I decided it could do no harm if I sent you this letter informing you of my requested Christmas gift. I have asked my father for a new portable generator and several additional chemicals to add to my chemistry set and I am confident he will provide them. I have also hinted strongly about the electronics components I need for the static electricity meter I'm building. As always, I am sure I can count on my mother to provide me with ample underwear to start the new year.
If you exist, there is something I would like you to bring me. Could you please bring me a hat like Billy Wagner next door has. He calls it a "Davy Crockett" cap and says it is exactly like the one worn by Crockett on television. I wouldn't know as I am not allowed to watch such escapist entertainment. I do not need it, I can find no functional use for this item, and I'm sure my father would find it frivolous and a waste of money. In fact, he would never understand my desire to have one. I would have to keep it a secret from him as he would be angry to learn that I spent 35 minutes talking to Billy Wagner when I was supposed to be reading the biography of Sir Isaac Newton. I cannot explain this desire either, but I do know I would like to have one.
Thank you for your time and have a Merry Christmas.
Don't seem like Christmas here, Dad. The jungle is hot and the ground is mostly slush. We've been on patrol for three days. Ran into snipers yesterday. They got two of our guys. Remember me writing you about Rusty Coffin, the skinny red-haired kid from Alabama with an accent as thick as poured concrete? His mom sent him this great big fruit cake. Now, you know I've never cared for fruit cake, but for some reason, this one tasted absolutely wonderful. Rusty passed it around to the rest of the guys and we finished that thing off in no time flat. Wouldn't think a southern red neck and a black kid from Jersey could have much in common, but Rusty and I have spent many a night when it was too hot to sleep just talking about home. His "mama" sounds a lot like Mom and his dad works hard for a living just like you. Funny thing about this place, it makes you see things a lot different. It's made me realize what's really important. Rusty used to joke about his last name. He'd say, "Name's Coffin, but I don't want to get put in one just yet." Well, it ain't no joke no more. Rusty tripped a booby trap two days ago. Looks like he'll be home for Christmas after all.
Dad, I don't know if I'm gonna make it through this hell, but I'm gonna try as hard as I can. No matter which way it works out, I want you and Mom to know how much I love you and miss you. Thank you for all you've given up for yourselves to take care of us kids. And most of all thanks for giving me so many great memories of home. They get me through times like this.
It's quiet now, Dad. All the guys are asleep or lost in their own thoughts. This is a hell of a place to be on Christmas Eve. But if I close my eyes, I can see the tree in the dining room. I can picture all the old ornaments and I can just see Mom as she hangs them on the tree so carefully. If I imagine real hard, I can almost pretend I'm in my bed upstairs waiting for Christmas morning to see what Santa brought me.
I've written a lot of letters to Santa in my life, and I've asked for a lot of things. I know you always did your best to get me what I wanted, even when it meant you had to work a second job for a couple of months before Christmas. Sitting here tonight, I can only think of one thing I want. I know Santa would bring it if he could. But I'll just hold on to the thought until it can come true. That'll be the day I walk in the front door and wrap my arms around you and Mom.
Take care and don't worry about me. My life is in God's hands and I have to believe He's got more in mind for me than this. I want that Christmas present real bad. Kiss Mom and give a hug to everyone.
Hi, it's me, Ray. It's snowing outside on the farm and it's really pretty out there. Pardon me if I'm a bit distracted this year, but in a few days, I leave for Columbia to start classes. The storm last year did a lot of damage to the farm and so I waited until the second semester to leave. Besides, I thought it might be nicer to spend Christmas here. Once I leave, I don't think my foster parents expect me to come back. After all, I'm old enough to be on my own now. I'll be 17 in a couple of months. I'd just be a burden to them if I came home just for the holidays.
Santa, I'm really thrilled about going to college. There's so much to learn. I've never really been anywhere besides Morristown and I admit I'm nervous about moving to New York City, but what an adventure it will be! Gee, its gonna be great! I have a job lined up, working as a lab assistant for one of the graduate students in the physics department. It doesn't pay much, but it should be all I need to get by. The scholarship will pay for books, tuition, room and board, so what more could I want?
Well, there is just one thing. I'm gonna need a new winter coat. I've been wearing my foster father's old coat for the past three years. It's really too small for me, but I've made do. But he's gonna want it back when I leave. If you could just find some way for me to get a new coat for Christmas, that would be perfect!
The only other thing I could wish for isn't exactly for Christmas, but I thought maybe you could help anyway. I think I can do well at Columbia, but I won't know anyone there. It would be really nice if you could arrange things so I can make a few friends when I get there. I know this isn't exactly in your line, but you know all about the students since you've watched them grow up and you know about me. Maybe you could find someone who wouldn't mind spending a little time with me. I could sure use some help adjusting.
Anyway, don't worry about Christmas Eve. I'll make sure to leave a glass of milk and some cookies out for you. I know you didn't get them last year, but I'll be sure to keep the dog in the other room this time. Be careful on your travels and I hope you have a Merry Christmas. Gosh, if anyone deserves to, you do! By the way, it's okay about the books I asked for last year. I know there were a lot of kids that needed things more than I needed those books.
Just don't forget, next year, I'll be in New York!
December 24, 1996
It's been a long time since I wrote to you, big guy. I think the last time I was five years old. I stopped believing in you after Dad didn't come home that year. I didn't stop believing in Dad for a while after that. Guess I know now it wasn't your fault.
It's Christmas Eve and the guys are all in bed. Egon was the last one to go upstairs after we shared a cup of his famous hot chocolate. I wish I knew how many times we've done that. But it was especially nice tonight. Egon, Winston, Ray and I spent the evening just talking, mostly about Christmases we remember. Now, you know I don't have a lot of good Christmas memories, but the last few years haven't been all that bad.
We got on the subject of letters we'd written to you. The only one I could remember was that one when I asked for the bat and ball and the truck. What I really wanted was Dad to come home. Well, I got the bat and ball. The truck just cost too much, I know. Mom didn't get her dress like I asked, but she said it was okay. She was really too old for you to bring her presents. She never did get much for Christmas, except once in a while in March or April when Dad would show up with something totally impractical. I think he was more concerned about his image than what we needed or wanted. I know now that in his own way, he loved us. It's just that his way wasn't very easy on Mom and me.
Egon remembered writing to you once about a Davy Crockett hat he wanted. Such a frivolous thing from old Spengs! Funny thing is, he got it! He said he wrote to you the next year too and got what he asked for again. But then his dad told him he was too old for such nonsense, so he quit. You want to know something, deep down underneath all that straight laced, no nonsense, practical, scientific exterior, I don't think he ever really gave up on believing in you.
My mom and Dr. Spengler must have been wrong about getting too old, cause Winston told us about a time in 'Nam when he wrote to you. All he wanted for Christmas was to come home from that awful war. He got his wish, too. Even if it did take over a year and another lonely Christmas in the jungle before it happened. He said it was the best Christmas present he'd ever had so he really didn't mind that he had to wait for it.
Speaking of never too old, Ray, of course, probably holds the world's record for number of times he's written to you. I don't think he's missed a year since he was first able to write! All those years when he lived with his foster parents, he rarely ever got anything much for Christmas and even less often did he get what he wrote for. But that didn't discourage our Ray. No, he couldn't conceive of not believing in you; still does to this day. No matter how many disappointments he's faced, he still believes in a lot of things most people have long since given up on. Some folks would call him naive, but I think he's very, very special.
This whole night's discussion got me thinking about what I'd ask for for Christmas this year if I wrote to you, and after much thought, I finally came up with an answer. Maybe it's the psychologist in me, but it seems to me in all the letters we talked about tonight, there was one common thread. Each of us, in our own way, was asking for somewhere to belong. Maybe I asked for the toys, but what I really wanted was my dad to keep his promise and be there with us. I wanted us to be a family for Christmas. Even at five, I knew how important that was. Egon, in his own way, was asking for belonging too.
Despite his dad's stern attitudes and practical approach, Egon never doubted his parents loved him, and they were always there for him. What was missing in his life was the joy found in friendship with someone with whom you share a passion. His request for a Davy Crockett hat was simply a way of seeking some common ground with the little boy next door.
Winston never lacked for love and a sense of belonging until he found himself about as far away from those things as you could get. All he wanted that year was to be home with the people he loved, those he knew loved him. Once you've experienced that feeling, being deprived of it is about the worst thing that can happen to you.
Ray didn't get his winter coat for Christmas, but when he got to Columbia and started working as Egon's lab assistant, good ole observant Spengs noticed what he needed and advanced him enough on his salary to buy a decent jacket. And while the obvious benefit to Ray was the possibility of surviving the winter without catching pneumonia, it was also the answer to the other part of his Christmas request: the genesis of a friendship that has grown only stronger ever since. I was there when Egon gave Ray the advance and I'll never forget the look on the kid's face. It was all I needed to want to take him under my wing and do my best to see that he always got what he wanted out of life. Wasn't a bad deal for me, either.
Which brings me to my Christmas list for this year. Claus, ole boy, you don't have to bring me anything 'cause I've already got it! Like Winston, I guess I had to wait a while to get it and it didn't come in the same form that I asked for all those years ago, but when it came to me, it was the best gift I could have received. I got a family after all. I have three guys that are closer than brothers could be to me, three guys that I can trust with my life. So you don't have to bother bringing me anything this year. I've got everything I need, and they're asleep upstairs.
Thanks to Egon and Winston and Ray, I belong somewhere. And, Santa, by the way...
...I believe again!
Don't let the reindeer bite ya on the...
P.S.: I'm leaving a cup of Spengs' cocoa in the microwave. Just warm it up and enjoy!