Santa, check your list now; it matters later

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 8, 2007

Dear Santa;

I know I’m way too old to be asking for presents, so I’m not about to.

I’ll leave that to the hundreds of kids and the handful of household pets who will be asking you, courtesy of this newspaper in about two weeks.

But I wanted to touch base. I know it’s been awhile since I put together a Christmas list for you. Such traditions cease when one turns, oh, say, 35 years old. I guess priorities shift and there are so many other people who need to get on your list.

We all know you that you subscribe to The Tidewater News, and have since the days when windows had shutters and sashes, and will

read the letters coming your way. We know you subscribe to the paper because you’re always complaining about our carrier who services your North Pole neighborhood, always fussing about the paper being left too far down the walkway for you, the paper being wet, whatever. The Misses couldn’t be nicer — and a much better tipper, I hear. Oh, and by the way: If you sample all the goodies reportedly being left out for you on Christmas Eve, you might want to add a few more reindeer to your herd that night. Rudolph is a nice lead deer, but he’s a lightweight. Get some reindeer the size of linebackers to tow your fat keister around that night. You’ll need it.

No, this is not about asking for something new for me. This is about paying attention to Christmas lists, because coming up short on Christmas morning has a profound effect on people years later. Most people become more humble with time. Not me, baby. I got more greedy.

Remember the year I asked for a soccer ball, the new kind that had black and white hexagrams sewn together like those used in the North American Soccer League in the ‘70s? Did I get one of those? No, I got a brown plastic one that grew more like a rock with each passing cold afternoon. As a result, I never did make it to the NASL. Coincidence? I think not.

But greedy is how I turned out.

As a subscriber, you no doubt have read a standing feature that runs weekly in this newspaper called “Know your Neighbor.” The newspaper has been fortunate to find humble “neighbors” to answer our questionnaire. For example, if I was asked what I’d want with me should I become stranded on a desert island, I’d want a fully-stocked Wal-Mart superstore, access to the integrated powers of the starship Enterprise and the front-door key to heaven with full visiting privileges.

Why not? Told you, that’s greedy.

I will, however, give you this Christmas experience to the positive side of the ledger. I don’t know whether I wished for it, but it was a pleasant memory nonetheless.

One year, I met my parents at a rest stop south of Baltimore along Interstate 95 on their way to Raleigh to visit my sister for their Christmas trip. My parents lived in New York and I lived in what could be called a Baltimore suburb then, and the rest area was the first logical meeting place for a quick hello. My younger sibling is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (Finally, a doctor in the family!!), and, at the time, was on staff at North Carolina State.

My mom packed sandwiches for us all to eat outdoors. My dad, however, was going through his first bout with chemotherapy. One of the side-effects he suffered then was persistent nose bleeds. So there we are, eating ham sandwiches made hours before while standing in front of the pre-fabricated cold-to-the-touch tables on a seriously frigid afternoon, my dad’s nose bleeding. “Mom, nice ham this year,” I said. It was the only thing I could think of. Thank God, we laughed.

As a reminder, my sister asked you for a pony every year of her young life. Never got one. Now she’s a veterinarian in Oklahoma specializing in large animals. Specifically, horses. There’s a lesson in there somewhere, but I’m not sure what it is.

Just watch after your young fans this year, Santa. And let your wife fetch the paper in the mornings.