By Ed Thompson
How long has it been? 40 years since the last time I last wrote to you? I still remember what it was that I asked you to bring to me. It was a Major Matt Mason spaceman action figure. I played with it constantly. I took baths with it. I went to bed with it. I went to school with it. A lot’s happened since that last letter.
You see, Santa. I tend to mark time by the Christmases I have celebrated. One Christmas dramatically changed how my life would roll out. I was in 4th grade when I received a red Panasonic ball-shaped AM radio. On that radio I heard the greatest radio station that ever existed, WLS. When I heard Larry Lujack, Bob Sirott, John “Records” Landecker, and Tommy Edwards with their reverbed mics and killer Jam jingles, I forgot that I wanted to be a policeman when I grew up. From then on, I wanted to be on the radio. When I finally got to be in radio, I stole Tommy Edwards air name and used it for my own. I also still have that very radio, and Santa, guess what? It still works.
A year later, my family went to visit my Grandpa and Grandma in San Diego. We piled into my dad’s ‘72 Chevy pickup, complete with a topper and crawl-through rear window and set off right from school on our Christmas vacation. I saw things I’d never seen before. The Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, Pacific Ocean, Disneyland. But the most wonderful thing I remember was swimming in the outdoor pool on Christmas morning. Come on, Santa, how many kids from Iowa get to do that?
Things changed in Junior High. I learned to appreciate how to give instead of get. I made a simple wooden shelf in shop class. I remember that my shop teacher didn’t give me such a great grade on it, but when I gave it to Mom as a present, she loved it. Santa, you would not believe it. She still hangs it on a wall in her home.
I also learned to appreciate family much more. My grandparents on my Dad’s side of the family converted to another denomination that didn’t celebrate Christmas. So, every year thereafter Christmas Day was spent with my immediate family, then we’d drive to Waterloo or Des Moines on the following Sunday to be with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Santa, I treasure those visits more now than I did then. After my Grandpa Harry died in 1981, we got together one more year and then never did it again. That Christmas wasn’t made any easier when my parents divorced while I was away at school in Minneapolis.
In ’83, I married and learned that Christmas is really more fun when you have kids. I will never forget how absolutely freaking cold that Christmas Day was. 25 degrees below zero! I had to sign on the station that morning and there was frost forming on the walls of the control room! How you survived that night in an open sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer, I’ll never know, but you made it through and brought to my new stepson a teddy bear that he called Ken. That bear kept its stuffing until he married and it eased his stepdaughter to sleep. Ken now waits patiently for her to marry and have children so he can help another little one off to dreamland.
I also learned that sometimes, the best gifts don’t cost a dime. Santa, I don’t have to tell you, radio is a tough business. Then again, I didn’t get in it for the money. But it was tougher because my Mom was out of work. Still she was able to give me a gift that remains my most cherished possession. That Christmas morning, I opened a Ryne Sandberg autographed baseball. Mom knew a woman whose step dad was the trainer for the Chicago Cubs. She asked her friend a favor and the friend came through for her. I treasure that ball because its value in love outweighs its worth in green money.
There were other Christmases too, Santa and not all with happy memories. There was the angry Christmas that led to the split between my youngest brother and me, the sad Christmas after his death, the lonely Christmas after my divorce, yet each one contained its lesson well learned. Still, other Christmases have marked other wonderful things like my engagement to the love of my life and the first Christmases of our three children, gatherings with her side of the family that include the best prime rib I have ever eaten and games played well past midnight, as well as putting up lights on the first house I’ve ever owned.
Santa, this year will be my 46th Christmas. I know I haven’t written to you for forty of those years but, this year I was hoping I could ask you what I’d really like for Christmas.
Please, I would like more love for me to give.
Please bring me more love to work harder at becoming more like the man God created me to be. Please, bring me more love to give to the woman who said to me, “I do.” Please bring me more love to share with my children and grandchildren. Please bring me more love to be a good neighbor to the folks who live up and down our street. Please bring me more love so that I can do more to help those who can’t help themselves. Please bring me more love so that I can share it in prayer and service for the men and women who serve the people and the country they love during a time of war. And please bring me more love so I can share it with those whom I have yet to meet, just in case they need a little when we do.
Oh and just one more thing; if it’s not too much trouble, how about a World Series Championship next season for my Chicago Cubs? A hundred years is a really long time to wait.
Merry Christmas, Santa. I’ll leave the milk and cookies for you and some carrots for the reindeer.
Yours very truly,