Getting a word in early……………Dear Santa

Never having written a Dear Santa letter in my youth, this week I write to him for the first time in my weekly column:

I am going to do something that I have never heretofore done. I am going to write a letter to Santa. I do not remember ever writing to Santa to ask for something for Christmas, so it is nigh high time. I may have scribbled a note to him left with milk and cookies, but a true Dear Santa letter has never been written, so here goes:

Dear Santa;

Hope all is well at the North Pole and that the elves are being diligent. Tell your wife hello and wish her a Merry Christmas for me. I suspect you are getting ready for the big day even though it is still a month away. I hear you were in my small town last week in the parade, and from all accounts you did yourself proud.

Okay, now that I have dispensed with the preliminaries, let me get down to the nitty gritty of this letter. As you probably know by now, people write to you asking for gifts but in the process couch their requests in niceties as we have been taught that it is impolite to be greedy. Far be it from me to be thought greedy, but at this time of year I have to admit, I like to receive as well as give. I am being honest here and hope you will at least get me some credit for that.

I would like to ask for peace on earth and that everyone be fed and clothed and warm this winter but I know that it is not your responsibility, so I will leave that to a higher source to guide the rest of us to continue the quest that though seems impossible, is not one we should give up on.

Okay, so here is what I want for Christmas. It is a book called “The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.” Quite a mouthful isn’t it? I can understand why you might think that it is a rather pretentious request, and a less than modest one, in that the title includes the words “The Thinking Person”, but I think I should be congratulated for wanting to better myself.

The book is written by Steven Pinker, who until he wrote the book was a high ranking academic (and still is, the fact that he wrote the book did not change his status.) He was born in Montreal, is around my age, and seems to be approaching the whole thing of grammar in a rather tongue-in-cheek way from the review I read in the Sunday Toronto Star. Tongue-in-cheek, yet still serious.

Pinker, unlike legions of us lesser folk, believes that “grammar is a fascinating subject in its own right”. Now I must admit that I like grammar too, though I break many of its tenets on a regular basis. In order to make the subject more appealing to a broader base he says that one should think of “grammar as the original sharing app” which is our “solution (for) getting complicated thoughts from one head into another.”

He rails against what he calls academic “highfalutin’ gobbledygook” wherein academics use “ponderousness as proof of gravitas” when in reality “their writing stinks”. I know firsthand whereof he speaks having turned out numerous essays in my younger days that make me scratch my head when I reread them today. (It humbles me that I do not understand the writings of my youth, but then I comfort myself with the fact that one has to put them in the context of being an answer to a dubious assignment by a crafty professor.)

Santa, I know it makes me sound like a bit of a book nerd to want this book for Christmas when I could ask for shiny baubles, warm sweaters, and perfume (all of which are welcome btw) but I have always found that the voice behind the books I read are comforting, compelling, and sometimes I even learn something (though retaining it is another story).

I am convinced that I want this book merely by reading a deft review by Jim Coyle. In his article he dedicated the last paragraph to a quote by Pinker who stated rather elegantly that “To a literate reader, a crisp sentence, an arresting metaphor, a witty aside, an elegant turn of phrase are among life’s greatest pleasures.”

Santa, just so you do not feel any undue pressure, I am letting my husband read this letter too—so between the two of you maybe you can come up with a plan to have this book, shiny and new, wrapped up and under my Christmas tree, in oh say, a month’s time?

With love and admiration, LouAnn

What would you ask Santa for?

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Published in: on November 25, 2014 at 12:05 pm  Comments (20)  
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~ A Little Early Snappy, Happy Ever After or A Little Magic in the Air ~

Cover of "A Family Christmas"

Cover of A Family Christmas

Ever notice how Christmas comes at the right time of year? When it is at its darkest, and starting to get cold and dreary? Even without snow, Christmas lights brighten things up a bit. Last night we had a light shower of snow and it is gently snowing right now, adding a little frosting to the still warm ground. Just that right festive touch for getting into the spirit.

One of my favourite little Christmas ditties is “We Need A Little Christmas” by Jerry Herman–and these lines just seem to embody the season we are about to embark:

“For I’ve grown a little leaner,  Grown a little colder, Grown a little sadder, Grown a little older, And I need a little angel, Sitting on my shoulder, Need a little Christmas now.”

We seem to make Christmas into a hassle with endless lists of things to do to make it merry and bright, and sometimes lose out on the magic of the whole season.

I read an interview with Santa in the book, “A Family Christmas” compiled by Caroline Kennedy, and the word magic was used no less than six times in answer to various questions.

Asked how reindeer fly, the jolly elf said that they are fed a magic mixture of corn and oats that only grows near the North Pole.

Magic was also the one word answer he gave to the questions, “how do you fit down the chimney”, and “how do you get into a home that does not have a chimney”.

How does he fly around the world in one night? Santa says it takes “a combination of lots of practice, judicious use of time zones, and of course, a little magic.

And how does he know who has been naughty and who has been nice? You got it: Magic.

What is magic? I have a two part definition: it is the suspension of disbelief; and the belief that there are things that happen we cannot explain. (It could be argued that this is also the basis of faith—but that is a topic for another place and another time.)  The best dictionary definition I found, (among many) is that magic “is a supernatural power that makes impossible things happen.”

Right now, there is a group of people who want us to only believe in those things we can prove—Darwin is their main man, and they only want to deal in things that can be substantiated. I have no argument with these people—in fact I think it is easy to follow this dictum as it takes us out of the world of imagination, into a world of grounded thought.

At various times in my life, I too have wanted proof positive, but have come to the conclusion that it does not exist. I like to think that there are things that happen that there are no easy or worldly answers to.

I am not talking magic as in the world of potions and spells, enchantments and bewitchments. I am talking about magic as inexplicable and astonishing, miraculous and exquisite.

If reindeer do fly—it is magic. When Santa makes it down the chimney unscathed-it is magic. By the way, when he does get to

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...

English: Santa Claus with a little girl: a magical moment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

your house, he made it very clear in his interview that he likes all kinds of milk except buttermilk, and loves all kinds of cookies, but most especially Christmas cookies.

Santa’s  favourite colour is red (who knew?); he has hundreds and hundreds of elves; and can remember without hesitation the names of his reindeer. And yes, he does count Rudolph as one of his reindeer.

When asked how old he is, Santa replied: “As old as my tongue, and slightly older than my teeth.”

So there you have it, from the horse’s mouth so to speak. And what is it that Santa wants for Christmas? Without batting an eye he says:  “Peace on earth, goodwill towards all people.” Now where have we heard that before?

Do you believe in Magic?(Wasn’t that a title of a song from the 1960’s? The Barefoot Baroness  would know.)