To this day, I can remember the icy pit of worry in my stomach. I remember my hands trembling.
I remember my eyes were wide open, and I’m not sure I blinked.
I remember looking around at everyone else – it was totally a moment of “do what everyone else is doing and you should be OK” kind of thing. But some were busy scribbling. Some were staring off into space. Some were asking questions. Some were even crying.
Y’all, take it from me: Writing a letter to Santa is hard work.
It’s one of my clearest memories from elementary school. I don’t know what grade I was in – first, I think, but I’m not entirely sure – and I could barely write a sentence, much less an actual letter.
Of course, that’s what makes Santa letters so cute. The kids say and ask for funny things! They misspell everything! Cute!
But when you’re a kid, you don’t see it that way. You see it as a huge, daunting task.
It’s a letter to Santa Claus. THE Santa Claus. St. Nick. Kris Kringle. Father Christmas.
Also known as the man who could make or break the biggest day of a kid’s life.
If he thought you were good, you got what you wanted. If you were naughty – smarted off to the parents, made fun of the siblings too much, whatever – you got nothing. Oh, the terror of being on the naughty list.
My classmates asked how to spell the names of toys, but our teacher wouldn’t tell us how. That sent some kids into mini-breakdowns: I remember some kids actually crying.
I remember thinking I couldn’t just list what I wanted. I had to ask for stuff for others, too.
I asked for a gift for my cousin Shawna and something for her dog, Darlin. I think I asked for something for myself, but I don’t even remember what it was. Probably a Barbie.
I worried that Santa couldn’t read my writing.
I worried I was writing my words too close together. My assistant teacher in kindergarten told me I did that, and honestly, I still do it, so I probably did it in my letter to Santa (sorry, Mrs. Snipes).
My letter ran in my hometown paper, the Pontotoc Progress, and I’ve always preferred how they run their letters (no offense, mighty Daily Journal), with little or no editing. All bad punctuation and misspellings are kept, just how the kids wrote them.
My letter was pretty clean, except my cousin’s name, which for some reason I wrote like this: Shaaaaawna.
Well, maybe I felt like adding in a few extra a’s, who knows.
All I know is Santa saw my letter. And all of that hard work paid off, because we had a great Christmas.
So here’s to all of this year’s letter writers: You worked hard.
Please know Santa saw your letter, and your letter was perfect.
Sheena Barnett writes for the Daily Journal. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.