‘Dear Santa,” is the hopeful preamble of the thousands of letters stacked up on the third floor of the U.S. Post Office in San Francisco.
Well, except for the letter from a child named Isaac. Isaac just launches straight to the point: “I want a bike,” he begins, before he realizes his error.
“Oh darn I forgot to say Dear Santa,” he continues in increasingly sloping green-penned scrawl. “But who cares I want a bike and I want it now. If you don’t I will turn you into mashed patatoes.”
“Love,” he concludes, under a lovely red snowflake stamp that seems to seal the arrangement, “Isaac.”
Whether Santa will bring Isaac a shiny new bicycle or a lump of punitive coal is between the two of them — but in the meantime, it gave the elves at the Evans Street post office something to chuckle over as they sorted through the Santa letters they received this year.
Nationwide, the U.S. Postal Service is now in its 97th year of Operation Santa, which allows postal employees and citizens to respond to letters — some of the responses are traditional letters, while others are sent with gifts and delivered to children believed to be needy.
The program was nearly derailed this year after a postal worker in Maryland recognized a registered sex offender volunteering for the program. After assessing safety concerns and revamping the program to ensure children’s privacy, the Postal Service maintained the program.
Needless to say, most of the letters that wound up in San Francisco’s North Pole mailbag this season tried a different approach than Isaac’s.
Eleven-year-old Nancy clearly thought the merry old elf would appreciate a little buttering up.
“I just wanted to say that I do belive in you,” she says in a letter whose margins are bedecked with hearts, happy faces and professions of love for Santa. “I wish that this year I would get some presents. Last year was so boring because I got no presents. I only got this toy that I did not know how to use it. I hope that this year I get something especial.”
Then Nancy lays it all out.
“I would wish for 200 dollars, a cell fone, and lots of presents please I will love you forever and ever,” she begs, before noting how prompt she has been in her request. “I am writing you this letter early so you won’t run out of the presents. Love Nancy. Love you!!!”
A letter writer named Brianna went with a bribe. “Dear Santa I know what I want for Christmas. I want the Stawberry berry cafe and the Barbie dream house the one that’s really big and when you come to my house I will give you Christmas cookies.”
“All I want for xmas is a radit,” another child requested, under a large portrait in felt pen of said bunny enjoying a large carrot.
“It is OK [for] us to have one we just can’t have any dog, and cat because the last guy runed the house so are land laed hat to redo ever [thing] in are home,” the author thoroughly explains, before graciously providing Santa with an out, in case rabbits are beyond his capacity. “P.S. and if you can’t brig me it, it’s OK.”
And then there was this mysterious and heart-rending request from Mikey: “I have been a good boy this year. I want lots of honey buns in my stocking. I also want a Christmas miracle to help me to speak,” his letter states. “Love, Mikey.”
Others also asked for Santa’s help with personal problems, including Jennifer, who appeared to be struggling with dental-pain-induced anger management problems.
“Dear Santa,” wrote Jennifer. “I wish for a wish. I wish that I could get good grades, get used to my expanders, and not fight.”
Other letters asked for a modest amount of toys.
“Dear Santa,” wrote Jordan. “I would like a Snow White and Cinderella dollhouse. My big brother would like a Frizbee.”
Children are not the only ones who solicit Santa’s help. Some adults familiar with Operation Santa put pen to paper to ask for assistance.
“My name is Gregory, I am a 23 year old man,” one read. “I feel a little embaressed for writing this letter. I am in need of a few things, but thankful for whatever you can help me with.”
Gregory explained that he doesn’t have work right now and doesn’t “even have a stable home.” He asked for clothing and bedding.
“I never had a real Christmas growing up as a little boy, because my mom was a single parent and I had two sisters and one brother. I try to help her as much as possible, but what can you do, when you don’t have anything yourself,” he writes woefully. “If you can help me out and get me on my feet, I will appreciate it.”
There were also those who simply asked for the pleasure of Santa’s company during the holiday.
“Deyr Santa,” wrote one correspondent, next to a very flattering crayon portrait of the bearded one in a chair. “Pleys cume to the pordy!”
Local children, parents know the season’s magic
Last year, 6-year-old Melissa Hernandez asked Santa Claus for two things: a doll, and a job for her mom.
And boy, did Santa deliver.
Melissa’s mother, Nancy Rivera, received a $100 cash donation that allowed her to help Santa Claus find the perfect doll for her daughter.
And less than two weeks later — on Jan. 6 — she found a job at a cafe that has allowed her to support the two of them throughout 2009.
The events cemented Melissa’s belief in the miracle-producing power of the man in red, her mother said.
Now 7, Melissa has already penned this year’s letter to Santa. As for Rivera, she says she’s just happy this year to have a job, her health and the means to enjoy a much more stable Christmas.
Another letter writer, Christian Wu, 9, wrote Santa last year asking for a Star Wars Lego set and a remote control helicopter. His mom, Janie Wu, said Santa did indeed bring presents — but not the exact ones he’d asked for. Santa’s budget was tight, she said, and has gone largely toward caring for Wu’s sister, who was recovering from leukemia and suffered from strokes.
As it happened, Christian’s sister had a relapse of leukemia this year, but is now stable after a blood-marrow donation. And Christian’s father, who was out of work last year, has found part-time work.
As for Christian, he said homework and tutoring have kept him busy so he has not had time to write Santa a letter this year.
He said he wasn’t worried, because he knew his Christmas was going to be merry.
“My mom invited my friends to come over to eat on Christmas Eve,” he said. “It’s going to be great.”