Letters of Love

Traditions are about more than going through the motions

LettersMost kids who write to Santa don’t hear back. One year, I did. The letter came in a big envelope, which was absolutely smothered in silver glitter. It was addressed to Erica Thoits, Sligo Road, Yarmouth, Maine, USA. No street number, but this is Santa—obviously he knows where I live. He doesn’t need to bother with the details.

The reason for the big envelope was soon revealed. After all, you can’t really fold a letter that’s bordered with even more glitter. It was too pretty to crease. Here’s how it read.

“Merry Christmas, Erica!

Great to get your letter! What a wonderful letter it is—beautiful printing and spelling. Every year you get better and better. Reports tell me you are quite the reader too.

Good wish list! You and I like the same things. Elf #5 is working on your list this year. He is out back checking on
everything right now.

So, you want to know how big an elf is. Well, they are about the same size as you are now that you are 7½.
They smile and laugh all the time, and their hearts are as big as the sky. I couldn’t do Christmas without their help. I love every one of them.”

The letter goes on, but this is a good example of Santa’s clear personal interest in me. I don’t recall if this was the first one Santa sent, but they arrived a number of years in a row. All glitterfied, all filled with details of my life, all my North Pole questions answered.

Eventually, Santa started asking for snacks outside of the typical milk and cookies. One year, he asked for egg rolls. Another year, he was in the mood for Italian, and only pasta would do. Of course, Mom had to get right on this. We can’t disappoint my close friend Santa.

You probably see where this is going. “Santa” was our family friend Dottie. I appreciate a sense of humor that inspires you to play a prank on your friends in a “letter from Santa” to their kid. I’m sure my mom was thrilled to throw some pasta on the stove or go pick up takeout on Christmas Eve.

It’s creeping close to 20 years since Dottie passed away. I think about her more often than just around the holidays, but she—and her letters—never fail to come up as the season approaches.

It was Dan Szczesny’s “At Home in N.H.” essay about the deeper meanings behind holiday rituals that brought Dottie’s letters to mind once again.

“The point is the celebration, not the tree,” Dan writes. “The point is, on that evening when we darken the house lights and switch on the holiday lights, there will be a glorious, fleeting moment when nothing else matters; when the connection between our parents’ lives, our lives and the lives of the kids of our children to come are all on display.”

When Dottie first picked up her pen and silver glitter, I don’t know if she thought about anything beyond making me happy and sending Mom on an egg-roll hunt, but they’ve since come to mean much more.

Thankfully, my mom saved the letters. They still get glitter everywhere, and they still make me feel loved and special. Not because 7-year-old me thought Santa was my pen pal, but because a real person with a heart as big as the sky took the time to show she cared (and wanted to get one over on her friends).

I hope someday I’ll send a glitter bomb of a letter to a child in my life, connecting Dottie, me and a new generation. That’s what the best traditions do—they link us to one another, sending love from the past to the present and beyond into the future.

Categories: From the Editor