Anything but action figures

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Bailey isn't a big letter writer. But she doesn't have a problem corresponding with Santa.

"Dear Santa, I have been a good girl," she wrote only days before her 8th birthday. Bailey was proud of the letter that she typed in computer lab at school.

She told us that many of her classmates said they had been very good. "Now I haven't been very good. I've been good," she explained when she showed us the letter. We applauded her desire to be honest with Santa.

The letter continued. "I was wondering if you and Miss Claus are going to go anywhere special for Christmas?" And here I thought he had been married all those years.

Joni and I pointed out that Santa would be a little busy during the holiday season. Bailey gave us her "I can't believe you are asking me that question" look and quickly explained that what she really wanted to know was whether Santa had any travel plans after Christmas.

Unlike her parents, Bailey was sure Santa understood.

In her letter, Bailey wasn't too specific about Christmas presents. But she told Santa just how many presents she wants under the tree.

"I want 4 things for Christmas. They are anything you want to bring me except action figures. I don't like them," she wrote.

She concluded her letter by wishing Santa well. "Have a great summer after Christmas!"

She signed it, "Your friend, Bailey Bliss."

Bailey's older sister, 11-year-old Becca, no longer writes Santa letters. It's one of the tragedies of growing up.

Personally, I like Santa letters. If you're going to ask for things, do it in writing.

A lot of Santa's letters end up in Santa Claus Village in Finland.

The post office there is in a log-cabin-style building with two rooms. The scenic room is the one with a fireplace, wing chair, sacks of "mail" and a large wooden desk -- perfect backdrops for a picture. During the Christmas season, 4,000 people a day from all over the world visit and snap souvenir photos.

The other room is the real mail room, receiving hundreds of thousands of letters yearly from 184 countries. The letters are sorted and shelved in cabinets.

Every year, tourism students at the University of Lapland show up to answer the mail. Of course, 40,000 of their responses are form letters. Only 1,000 to 2,000 Santa letters -- such as those asking for medical care for dying family members -- receive handwritten responses.

"We can see everything that is going on in the world through the letters," postal worker Tuija Pulju told the Smithsonian magazine in its latest issue.

There are wishes for toys and wishes for peace. Nothing is too small a wish or too large a wish for Santa, it seems.

As for Bailey, she doesn't know where Finland is. She told me the other day that Santa was vacationing out West.

"Isn't he at the North Pole?" Joni asked, suggesting he had to be there to see to the manufacture of all those toys.

Bailey smiled. "That's what the elves are for, Mom," she said.

Clearly, Bailey believes in a delegating Santa and one who doesn't have to be bundled up all the time.

But even if he isn't camped out in the snow, Bailey figures Santa will get her letter and those of her classmates.

She doesn't bother with the mechanics of the postal service. In her mind, it's the thought that counts.

I can't argue with that. Neither, I'm sure, would Santa.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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