I was nine when I saw my dad placing presents under the Christmas tree in the middle of the night. The next morning I recognized my mother's cursive on the gift tags labeled FROM: SANTA. I'd known it all along. That's all I could think as I rode my Powder Puff bigwheel around on the living room carpet. That's pretty advanced thinking for a nine-year-old girl overwhelmed by piles of gifts, but I remember these thoughts. Still, sometimes I wonder, Could I really have been so savvy? Sometimes I imbue my younger self with an intelligence that couldn't possibly have fruited. I'm also assuming elves are literate. I've always pictured you smarter than us, even as children.
Anyway, after that real or imagined revelation, I just told my parents what I wanted for Christmas and got it over with. There was no use keeping up the Santa facade; my slim hope that fantasy beings dwelled on Earth had been crushed. I felt defeated. Before my revelation, I was an elf busied by beliefs in the supernatural; then all at once I morphed into an adult human. I grew hairy armpits and a small shrub below.
"Define the difference between REALITY and WISHFUL THINKING:" This was one of the many lessons that taught me fun and reality are indirectly linked. Maturity is a series of depressing realizations that what you wish for will not necessarily come true. Christmas is meant to be a remedy. It's a distracting holiday—people temporarily forget their woes and allow themselves to be swept away by the Christmas Spirit. But why should we pretend to be happy?
Thank you for assuming elves are literate. Most elves are born with the ancient language already within them. We can read and write in our cribs: it is not uncommon for elders to converse at length with their babies on such topics as philosophy and math.
On the topic of celebrating depressing concepts, I've never understood the Catholic habit of feast days to commemorate martyrs such as St. Nicholas. I don't understand martyrdom. What is so honorable about dying in prison, starving oneself, being burned alive, or dying of lye poisoning, for example, as was the case with my own baptismal saint Rose of Lima?
It's true, I'm a Catholic elf. There are a few of us up here who have church-going parents. I happen to think going to church is the dullest pastime in the world, especially when the option of slinging gifts over Santa's back entices me. Our church is very small; the spire is only thirty feet tall, and it's the tallest building in the village.
By the way, fantasy beings dwell on Earth in two forms: elves and gnomes. The gnome race is near extinction: the few remaining clans live in isolated pockets of pine forest—I can't reveal exact locations. Elves live in cold regions. But to be accurate, fantasy beings by definition do not exist. Are you hopeless because your fantasies cannot be realized?
Talking to a baby about the meaning of life must be satisfying. Thank you for the tips on elves versus gnomes. If you can't reveal village locations, can you send me a picture of yourself? Do you have a portrait you could spare? I imagine it would warrant a tiny picture frame. You must be a very cute man. Not to insult your manhood... I've only seen caricatures of elves: adorable green creatures with elaborate outfits.
I'm amazed you wrote back!
Why bother to write someone if you don't hope they'll write back? I don't expect humans to write me back, but I do hope they will. It's an innocent excitement. Enclosed is a picture of me on my 200th birthday. I have a few gray hairs that used to be green, but our greens are browner than the ones humans associate with elves. My hair used to be a ruddy green, more like the back of a bullfrog than that of the vibrant grass growing in meadows.
Do you still think "fun and reality are indirectly linked?" Maybe you should visit the toy factory here. We eat candy and sing songs all day. And why not try writing to me about something I can relate to—like toys, snow, reindeer, or presents?
You are so distinguished looking! Let's start over. I am a middle-aged American woman, 140 lbs, 5'8. How tall are you? Are your striped tights red and white? Do you attend elf school, or do you work in the North Pole Post office? Who do like better, Mrs. Claus or Santa?
To answer your question about reality, I'm saying that Christmas is a lie. Times that are supposed to be fun and aren't are more devastating than times that you know won't be fun, because hopes are crushed. Every holiday, especially Christmas, I think hope will sprinkle down on my head like snowflakes; just a few tiny flakes would suffice. I actually imagine hope as snow: crystalline, elusive, beautiful, unmistakable. People here hate snow because it's depressing, but I've always thought hope is stored in snowstorms.
Only recently have I begun to give up believing that good things will happen to me. All year long I work hard, but I'm underpaid. Bills stack up; I'll never have money to own a house or car. I'm ugly with long, straggly hair that's beginning to fall out. I keep it dyed black to look younger. Sometimes I fear I'm doomed to become as vicious as Mommie Dearest.
There's no wish list attached here. I have given it considerable thought and decided that to wish too many things at once can only invite disaster. I'm taking some advice of yours—hope your wishes will come true. I have already wished that elves were real, and my wish came true. So I'm putting a lot of faith in you, Elf, for three reasons: you wrote me back twice, sent me a photo, and you're Catholic, which seems significant. I'm working on Earth wishes this year, more concrete things, and if that goes well, I'll wish for Universal things in the future.
Another elf told me that some humans think Santa is Satan in disguise, since their names share the same letters. Is this true? Santa would of course disagree. Are you a Satan worshipper, and is that why you've been sending me such bizarre letters? If you are, please stop writing me. If you hate your life, why not end it? Suicide is plausible in elf culture. If there is an elf in crisis, we take him to the Supreme Elf Counselor in order to determine whether or not he can be alleviated of his pains. Then an Elf Council votes on his right to end his own life. Catholic Elves dispute this, but suicide has traditionally been the most merciful way to end misery. Very few elves wish to kill themselves, however. Only the males are allowed to contemplate it.
To answer your question about which Claus I favor, I can't answer that because Santa pays my salary and provides my family with food and cheer. Mrs. Claus brings trays of brownies and Pfeffernüsse to us while we're toiling on the gift assembly line. Did you know each gift is not custom-crafted but rather mass-produced? I hope I haven't caused any disillusionment by revealing this secret.
You said you used to believe in fantasy creatures when you were a child, and now you are writing to an elf. How has your hope been crushed?
I may be a descendant of the Vikings (I'm of Scandinavian origin), but I am not a devil worshipper. Thor is my own personal master: the god of thunder, the strongest supreme being alive. Thor is the real Santa Claus. In legends, he is old and robust, has a long white beard, and dresses in a red suit. His chariot is powered by two white goats, Cracker and Gnasher, who carry him to his palace in the North. No wonder, then, that your Claus stuffs himself down chimneys towards the hearth, the fire center. Fire is Thor's element! How do you carry on knowing the man to whom you've dedicated your life's work is a fake? He probably glues on his beard and shoves a pillow under his coat to make his belly bulge.
I wasn't writing you a suicide note—if I wanted to die, I'd be dead already. I wouldn't be wasting my time corresponding with elves. Here's why I wish fantasies could become reality: because they're so much more interesting. Manticores and mermaids are more appealing than goldfish and rats. In daily life, even if you see something you've never seen before, it can't beat a minotaur shooting arrows into a mushroom cloud. I wish an army of skeletons would swordfight me like they did Jason in Jason and the Argonauts. What would be the most surprising thing that could happen to me today? A spider biting me? Big deal.
Writing to you gives me great consolation, I must say. I am not accusing you of being a fraud, I'm only telling you that you've got options. Have you ever visited Los Angeles? You are welcome here. I live in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, so bring a Spanish dictionary. In Spanish, you are El Duende. If you come, you are invited to my house and can stay indefinitely.
Do the Claus's have an heir to the throne, or is Santa supposedly immortal? How many old geezers posing as Santa live among you? I ask you these confidential details only because you volunteered information in your previous letter that shocked me and confirmed the reality of this correspondence. No false elf would have the mind or the brazenness to concoct a story about toy quality in Santa's workshop. I guess if Santa found out, you'd be fired. Your confidence leads me to believe you are high in the Order of Elves, and Santa favors you. Do you perhaps tend to the reindeer barn and otherwise govern animals? I have a set of reindeer antlers hung on the porch above the front door to greet visitors.
Dear Noble Viking,
Thank you for your invitation. I do frequently visit the reindeer barn because I'm a veterinarian and physician. I am Santa's personal doctor. (He's gets several colds per season, and is gout-ridden.) Since I hold a degree in Ancient Chemistry, I brew my own medicines and curatives and am licensed to operate when necessary, using elf laser procedures far superior to your techniques. Santa is a hemophiliac; when he bleeds, his blood is a dark, thick red that fascinates me and makes me want to taste it. Do you drink blood, Viking? I imagine your chalice dedicated to that ceremony. What if an elf drank human blood? I have heard vampires drink blood and live at night. Pagan elves believe vampires are cursed elves doomed to eternal suffering.
No human has ever invited me into her home; only Santa receives that sort of hospitality. You and I are not as far apart geographically as I envisioned. I can hop the southbound sleigh easily. I'll stow away in the red velvet pockets that store Santa's maps, handkerchief, and whiskey.
I have no real family as I boasted before. All I am bringing is my medicine bag, spectacles, and a few wool sweaters. I can bring you elf wine as an offering. I am comfortably fed with a mouse steak, halved green peas or grains of rice, and other small, healthy foods. I will be useful for tasks like locating lost earrings in the carpet or removing bee stingers. I can do anything gnomes do but with more accuracy. Elves are more intelligent than gnomes.