Letter to Santa - 1990

Letter to Santa – 1990 (Photo credit: Valerie’s Genealogy Photos)

One year, maybe from talking with friends, or succumbing to the many ads that showed cherubic children writing out their Christmas desires in letters to Santa, my Mom decided to invite my younger brother and me to write out our own Christmas lists.

There was only one problem with this plan.

She’d never before asked us what we wanted – not for Christmas, not for our birthdays.

Gifts were always a mix of practical and fun.

We got the usual mittens, scarves and hats. We lived in the North until I was 11, so, pretty much every year we needed new coats and boots, and, often, ski pants to keep warm  when we were playing in the snow.

Gloves might not get lost an entire season, if we were lucky, but they rarely lasted two years. Hats and scarves, again, if not lost, might only last a few years.

In Illinois and Iowa, once it snowed in the fall, there was usually snow on the ground until spring.

In a case of arrested development, I still have an 11-year-old’s delight in snow, because that is the year we moved to Texas.

When I was 11, we had two-feet of snow, unusual, even in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It was unusual enough that they closed the schools.

When I was 12, we had two inches of snow, unusual enough in Richardson, Texas, just outside of Dallas, that they closed the schools.

But, I didn’t need snowpants for two inches of snow. We had to gather snow from three or four neighbors’ yards just to have enough to make one snowman.

So, in elementary school, when Mom asked us to make lists, I knew I didn’t have to ask for gloves or boots. I’d get them anyway.

We didn’t have stockings. We didn’t even have a fireplace until we moved to Texas.

And, I’d figured out the Santa story when I was five.

So, I knew the list was to help Mom and Dad get us something they knew we’d like.

To be sure, they were pretty good at figuring it out on their own.

I had the usual assortment of dolls, including one, Nancy, whose eyes opened and closed. She was almost the size and the soft, cuddly feel of a real baby.  I was glad that she wasn’t real because I wasn’t tied to her if I got tired of playing with her.

I still have her, and a hand-carved wooden cradle I treated myself to a few years ago for her, and all the doll clothes and blankets my grandmother made for her one year.

They must have figured out I was curious about lots of things. One year brought a book on how to make and break codes. I credit it with sparking an interest in codes that would eventually lead me into computer programming, my life-long passion and profession.

Another year brought a perfume-making set. I loved the fact that my bedroom floor was linoleum tile, not carpet, so I didn’t have to worry about spills when I was making my perfume mixes.

One year brought a full-sized, 26-inch girl’s bike that my two brothers opened by mistake, discovering their error only when they saw it was a girl’s bike.

But, this year, probably when I was 9 or 10, they must have run out of ideas, or suspected we might have hidden desires that they could only find out if they asked us to write down lists for Santa.

The only thing I’d ever not told them I wanted was a piano. I didn’t take piano lessons. We didn’t have a piano, after all.

But, I also knew better than to ask for a piano for Christmas. I didn’t get one until my three-year-old son, Jonathan, showed an interest and I finally had an excuse and the means.

So, my younger brother and I were totally perplexed about how to write out a Christmas list.

We got out the Sears catalog and turned to the toys section.

It’s a good thing they didn’t give us money.

My Mom caught us when we’d gotten up to three pages of toys on our list.

“OK. That’s probably enough,” she said, taking the papers from us.

I have no idea if I got anything from the catalog that year.

She never asked again.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers”



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