During a very specific window of time after I joined the Western World, I believed in Santa Claus. One hundred percent. This window happened to fall between October 1992 and January 1993. The natural thing to do, then, was to write him a letter. Sorry, write Him a letter.
Make no mistake, I had always been aware of the SC’s existence even from before. I have a very clear memory of painting a reproduction drawing that I’d made of a Christmas card sent to my parents from someone overseas. I was just starting to get into painting then, so I only had the back of a large Ethiopian Airlines calendar paper – the glossy kind that didn’t take to pencil or water-colours very well – for a canvas. SC was soaring over a snow-laden roof, if I remember correctly, on a twelve reindeer-power sleigh, all jolly and whatnot. Even as I was carefully copying out this image though (in my reproduction, he came out rather slimmer than on the card. Go figure.), I was aware, on some instinctual level, that he was not real. But only in the sense that things outside my reality – things outside Ethiopia – were not real either. But then, like someone or something that only becomes real when there’s an actual chance that you might get to meet them/have it, since you’re now on the required turf, I went West (well, North, technically) and suddenly Santa – oddly unlike Madonna, Michael Jackson or Marvin Gaye – became real.
More than what I wished for in that letter to Santa, of which I remember nothing, I remember the feeling I had while I was writing it. It was a feeling of having a secret, special friend, the only one who truly understood me and would solve my newly-acquired confusions. As far as timing goes, SC’s was to the second, I couldn’t have wished for better. I hadn’t made any friends yet at the homogenous school I was going to, full as it was with the When did you accept Jesus into your heart? offspring of American missionaries. Kids from other countries – Denmark, Sweden, Philippines, China, Jamaica, Black America – wouldn’t start to arrive for another year.
I wrote several drafts of the letter, that much I am sure of. Lying on my stomach diagonally across my bed, on a paper ripped out from a ringed three-hole notebook paper, the latter quite the novelty. All but the final neat draft in pencil. Did I mail it? Possibly. Or I kept it in the locking cabinet in my room, believing still that He would receive it.
If I did mail it, and if Santa had been real, and if He had sent me what I wished for (we’re assuming I was aware of the rules regarding what you should include in a letter to SC; for all I know it could have just been full of teen angst-y ramblings with no list of merchandise at the end, and SC would have nodded off in boredom while reading it, His wire-rimmed glasses sliding off His nose into the Missus SC’s secret recipe eggnog), I wonder what He would have sent me? The things I was into, I already had; compact discs mainly: Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, Jon Bon Jovi – my three first loves. This was before I learned to model myself on the people I saw in the R n’ B music videos whom, to be fair to MTV, I resembled more. Janet Jackson, En Vogue, SWV, R Kelly, Snoop Dogg, Xscape – they all came later, way later.
So, supposing the North Pole Post was in operation that year, what else was good in the ’90s? Scrunchies, Madonna, beepers, lipliner, bodysuits, Discmans, the Bulls, Democracy, …
Be jolly and help a girl out here.