My class finished their letters to Santa yesterday, and while there were a few electronic gadgets mentioned, most of them wanted the standards: guns, trucks, cars, dolls, and a puppy. I find that particularly fascinating since I have spent the past few weeks reading Santa letters from the 1920s. It is difficult to distinguish between the two groups. The boys of 1925-30 were as appreciative of guns and wheels as my students. And the little girls were eager to care for their make-believe babies. The only major differences I can see are requests for candy and fruit. Our current generation gets so much of both of those that it would never occur to them to ask for them as a present!
I remember some of my early wishes for Christmas. I was granted many of them: dolls and doll beds and skates and records and art supplies. But some of them were never found under my tree: horses and puppies and giant doll houses. I managed to live without them. I think much of the wonder of Christmas isn’t created by receiving gifts, but in imagining the possibilities of them. Each year I spent weeks thinking about what I would do with my new horse! And even though I never got one, I lived through a lot of “virtual” adventures with my trusted friend Blackie. Yes, my imagined horse had a name!
My own children always had more on their Christmas lists than we could afford, so we tried to pick out the one thing that would bring them the most joy. That usually meant a bicycle or train set or popular doll. Then we added a few books, games, puzzles, and clothes. There were some years when we had to borrow money in order to have Christmas presents, and there were some years when times were just too lean for much of anything. Somehow we survived anyway. There were always family members and friends and neighbors and community organizations to help. By the time our children opened all their presents they had forgotten most of their actual requests!
As my students dictated their letters yesterday I thought of what my own would contain today. The older I get, the more I desire comfort and peace. Gary teased me yesterday about the cold weather. As we got ready for bed I turned the electric blanket on and set it for “3”. He laughed and said, “I remember some years when you didn’t even turn on your side of the blanket unless there was a foot of snow on the ground!” That has certainly changed, so I guess instead of a horse I should ask Santa for flannel pajamas and warm socks!