Umpteen years ago, someone, I do not remember who, when or how, but it was long before the internet was conceived, lodged an irremovable “cookie” in my mind. I have grown well accustomed to it and I cherish it. It is the story of an old newspaperman on night duty, sitting at his desk, a cigarette hanging from his lips, drinking the slow, uneventful night away alone in the darkened, silent newsroom. After some spirit migrated from the bottle to the innards of his cranium he noticed a reader’s letter on his desktop. He took it all in at a glance because the message was short – but it blew his mind. He took another swig from the bottle, lit a new ciggy, put pen to paper and wrote history.
The old newsman was Francis Church and she whose letter jolted him was a little girl form New York, Virginia O’Hanlon. Church answered her publically in print and his words resonate around the world ever since, infallibly crescendoing at this time of the year.
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”, he wrote her and the whole world took it in. All then rejoiced and so do every Christmas since, as did before, for that is the time of the year Santa Claus comes to town, a tad jollier for that ode Francis Church composed.
We need a holiday from the routine of our everyday life – no mater how much we love what we do, we need time away from it and that is how the great holidays came to be. Organized religions, all of them it seems, have recognized this human need for such a reprieve and have made it part of their traditions. They all sponsor holiday events and hold on to them as tightly as the International Olympic Committee holds onto the Olympiads. And that is fine with me and so should be for everyone.
Enjoy the divine smells from the kitchen, the glare of the lights, the sounds of the carols, the sight of decorated trees, the gifts and the cards. Listen once again to Allan Maitland read “The Shepherd”, the story of a despairing airman guided to a runway on his last drop of fuel. They are all ours to enjoy and the season is right. Let your guards down and, take it from Frank Sinatra, go on and “say something stupid, like I love you” to someone if you are, or think we are, young at heart to do that.
And think of those of us who, like “my” Francis Church was, will be in unenviable situations, alone, on darkened stages, that many of us may not even imagine. And do for them what you can.
But, please, do not tell me that “my” story of the genesis of the letter to Virginia is a myth, for if you do, I would rather doubt you than it.
Time now to wish you a “Merry Christmas” . Please take it, no matter what name you call your holiday because it comes from my hearts of all us at Alcyone.