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Open Letter to Santa: From a Father’s Daughter

by Ashley Salas, Photos: Vanessa Balderas, Model: Lily de Anda, Hairstylist and Makeup Artist: Paty Quiroga, Location: Showcase Lighting (813 E. Calton Rd.), Accessories: Bejeweled, Evening Gown: Forever After

Close your eyes and picture the perfect Christmas. The smell of fresh-baked cookies whose sole purpose are to be accompanied by a warm glass of milk for the Father of Christmas, fills the air. The tree glistening with perfectly hung lights and a fire crackling as the kids are mounting their letter for the jolly old man in red, expecting to hear reindeer bells on the roof this early in the night. Families go caroling around the neighborhood, ABC’s 25 Days of Christmas is playing on T.V., while the sound of Frank Sinatra’s Christmas album mutes the surrounding sounds. We start December with high expectations, but we often find ourselves frazzled and stressed on the picture-perfect day. As the Christmas season becomes flooded with anything but joy as we race to find the perfect gift and open our homes to loved ones, we forget this holiday is about things that money can’t buy: love, unity, and most importantly, mother’s delicious tamales and Tia Juany’s sugarly buñuelos.

Christmas isn’t a task to complete or a burden to endure, it’s a celebration of the birth of Christ and a time to forgive and live in harmony around those loved ones that surround us. In fact, for many people, the special day is cherished, but not for all of us. You see, when you’ve lost a loved one, things don’t look the same, especially around this time of year. That’s the reality of it. The spark doesn’t burn as brightly as it used to and what was once all-things-family now fraunts with sadness and pain. That’s one of the downfalls about the holidays, they remind you of those that are not with us anymore and rather leave you wishing you could see them under your Christmas tree for one more night. That would be the perfect Christmas miracle, actually. The day is more of a reflection day — of remembrance. Even if our hearts ache, telling our favorite stories of that person helps put one broken piece back together. Or, even writing a letter of how the perfect Christmas would go and placing it on an empty chair at the dinner table works too.

Dear Santa,
I know it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me, which makes me hope my name is still on your nice list. Just a little side note: please ignore those night outs past my curfew and my procrastination. That may have been my evil twin Valentina, seeking revenge for that Easy Bake Oven you got me that one Christmas instead of her. 

As you can see, I am now a responsible adult, although my definition of adulting would be a person who sleeps in a snowman onesie the night before Christmas and leaves out cookies and a glass of warm milk for the magical man. I still refuse to believe you’re not real, even if the world begs to differ. I mean, what else would explain how my presents magically appear under the tree in the morning? 

You visit every year and leave everyone with what their hearts desire, but I’m wondering if that magic you carry is enough for what I’m about to ask for. For many years, I’ve given you a 10-item wishlist, all of which included a bike, a GameBoy, and the cute boy who sat in front of me during history class in elementary school. This year, I wish for one thing and one thing only: a day with my dad. Give me one more day with his voice, his hugs, even his getting-afters. I’ll take what I can get. But, if you could give me the chance to decide, here’s how our day would go: I’d wake up with a complete heart full of the happiness life robbed two years ago. The smell of coffee from the kitchen would fill my lungs and the first view I would see would be you cooking your huevos rancheros. There doesn’t have to be any presents or a full course meal, as long as I have my milanesa and mashed potatoes because nobody knows how to make it right except you. I’d let you talk throughout it all and grasp all the knowledge I could get. That’s all I wish for, that’s all I need, that’s all I want, Santa. 

A Father’s Daughter

When someone is missing, even the best days and happiest events are tinged with sadness. It can be hard to remember why Christmas should be so merry. Grieving is unexpected but think about the holidays a little different. Start a new tradition. During a holiday dinner, place a lighted candle on the dinner table, include on of your loved one’s favorite dishes in your holiday meal, share your favorite stories, do something you loved to do together on that day. It’s very normal to feel you many never enjoy the Holidays ever again. Most of us carry a mental picture of what a holiday should look like and this can create a lot of pressure. Something I’ve learned is feeling the emotions in its totality. Holidays are clearly some of the roughest terrain we navigate after a loss. This is why I encourage you, dear reader, to reach out to someone you know is having a difficult time coping with the loss of someone during these times. A “how are you doing?” text, phone call, or “let’s grab coffee” is something that can go a long way. After all, this holiday is all about togetherness. 

At one time most of my friends could hear the bell. But as years passed, it fell silent for all of them… Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me…as it does for all who truly believe.

– Hero Boy, The Polar Express (2004)

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