December 14, 2020

Letters From Santa

For many years on Christmas morning, my daughter, Madison, received a personalized letter from Santa. By the time she joined our family, my employer had been writing a Santa letter to his granddaughter for a couple of years. He had closely followed Madison’s adoption journey throughout 1998, and that year he surprised us both with her first Santa letter.

The next year I received a short questionnaire around the first of December asking for her “milestone” events—walking, teething, talking, things she enjoyed doing. The day before Christmas Eve as we closed the office for Christmas, he handed me her second letter. Year after year the letters came. Some Christmases Madison walked right past gifts under the tree in search of the Santa letter. Usually she found it on top of the empty cookie plate where she had put Santa’s snack the night before. Sometimes Santa got sneaky and put it in her stocking.

These letters were never about gifts or questioning behavior. They were always letters of congratulations on some job well done or encouragement in some manner in many of her interests and pursuits. Madison always marveled at how Santa knew she was an excellent student, loved dance and spinach, had lost three teeth that year, and even that she had held a reticulated python at Pocahontas State Park during a Girl Scout camping trip.

When the true identity of Santa was realized, she was mystified when, the next Christmas, her letter showed up business as usual. I assured her that I had not written it. She was eighteen years old when she finally figured out who had been writing all these treasured letters. Sadly, the Santa letter she received that year would be the last.

Her beloved grandfather figure passed away the following spring. Every Christmas since, at least once, Madison has mentioned those letters and keeps them in a special place. Maybe this year I will suggest a new tradition— that all of the letters be brought out and re-read collectively.

Margaret Ernstes, Team Member