A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dear Santa

"Dear Santa, I want to meet Justin Timberlake. Pretty please! Love, Jen."
"Dear Santa, You got to go on a diet. Plus, give me 100 more wishes. Thanks, Kashyap."
"Dear Santa, I am so thankful that you visit me every year. I am very alone. My father died, and I am an only child. So to me, you are my father. I want to thank you for being in my heart and being present in my favorite holiday. Love, Alexis."
Once upon a time, letters like these ended up in the Dead Letter Office. But for the past 27 years, they have gone to the Main Post Office in Oakland, which invites the public to read and answer them.
"You don't necessarily have to send a gift," says MaryGrace Cruz, the USPS's Consumer & Industry Contact Manager. "The children appreciate just knowing that somebody out there cares."
But, of course, if you're moved to send a present, too, nobody's going to stop you. To participate, call the Santa Hotline at 510-874-8737, and one of Santa's Helpers will be more than happy to assist you.
In the meantime, here's more of what our kids are thinking this holiday season. Once again, they never fail to surprise.
"Dear Santa, I have been good all year. I didn't get in trouble and I got very good grades. This year all I want is a phone. It can be any type you want but PLEASE don't get me a used phone! Love, Prab. P.S. I will leave cookies and milk for you."
"Dear Santa, I would like to say hello. I know you couldn't get me anything last year, but that's OK. I don't insist on you bringing me anything this year, but it would really make me very happy. The elves might be too busy working on other toys, and I don’t want them to have too much work. But if they want to make me something, they can. Merry Christmas. Sincerely, Daniel."
"Dear Santa, How is it going in the North Pole? Is this Santa reading this or an elf? Thank you for reading my Christmas list. I hope you have an awesome Christmas! From Niki."
"Dear Santa, I just wanted to ask if you're OK. I also want to tell you how well I have been doing in school by working really hard on my homework, class work and tests. My parents don't have enough money because my dad works only two or three days a week in construction. I just want to thank you for reading my letter and tell you that God blesses you for everything you do. Sincerely, Sergio."
"Dear Santa, How are you? Are you and the elves making progress this year? I am really excited for Christmas! This year I would like new socks, and a phone case for a 3GS would be nice, too. Those electric cars are pretty cool also. I also need a hair pick for my American Girl when I curl her hair. I hope this isn't too much for you to handle. You don't have to get me every single thing on the list, but most of it would be nice. Love, Faith."
"Dear Santa, I would like a dog that looks just like my old dog Chloe. She was a Boston terrier. I almost forgot: and a lot of bracelets. I hope you get a lot of cookies for Christmas. Thank you, Natalie."
"Dear Santa, How are you? I want to thank you for bringing me everything I asked for. I wish I could meet you one day to give you hugs and tell you how much I love you. I want to ask you if you can bring me a tablet. If you can't it's OK. I'm still going to love you. (Unsigned) P.S. Fly safely."
"Dear Santa, How are you doing up there in the North Pole? How is Mrs. Clause? The things that would make me happy this Christmas are an NBA jersey and the LeBron James movie. Have a jolly and happy Christmas! Thank you, Andrew."
"Dear Santa, How have you been? Hope to see you some time soon! I have missed you! Is it OK to ride in your sleigh? I would love to! And please tell my parents to take me to see 'Frozen!' Love, June."
"Dear Santa, HI. My name is Elizabeth. We just moved to San Jose because our room in Los Angeles caught on fire. This year, all I want to ask you for is some clothing and shoes for my brothers and me. My mother has been a single mom for a long time, and I admire her because she's always been there for us and always finds ways to support us even through we've been through a lot. Santa, I'll understand if you can't help us this year. Last year we received your letter saying you couldn't make it to our home. I hope you can this year."
"Dear Santa, I would like a doll and cash for my college fund. $2 million would be good. (Unsigned)"
"Dear Santa, I am 11 years old and I have always wanted a computer to do my homework. Please try to bring me one. Santa, I trust you. Also, I believe in you. My name is Kimberly."
"Dear Santa, I wish you a Merry Christmas. The only thing I want for the next year is that my parents and grandparents will be healthy!!! Love, Dennis."
"Dear Santa, Merry Christmas! Can I have a motorcycle, dirt bike, a big huge white bear, and please give water to the poor people. Love, Leila."
"Dear Santa, For this Christmas I want a baby brother. Love, Hailey."
"Dear Santa, I want all my brothers and sisters to get what they want. Love, Brian."
"Dear Santa, I have been a real good boy. Please bless me with love, joy and health, but most of all - gifts! Thanks, (Unsigned)."
"Dear Santa, I'm writing this letter not for me, but for someone else that I believe deserves to get something for Christmas. I work for a pediatric palliative care center, and we have a patient's sister who has been living her for over three months with her sister, who is very ill, and their parents. She is a very sweet, kind and loving girl. Her name is Anais. She is about nine years old. She loves anything with princesses, especially Disney Princess. She also likes to make bracelets and she likes Hello Kitty. Basically, she likes anything girly. I know whatever you bring her she would be very grateful for, and so would her parents since they are out of work at this point. So if you could help her in any way I would appreciate it. I believe she deserves to be happy. From someone who will always believe in you, no matter what age I am."

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Christmas For Children

(Above: Dori the pony, one of the happy animals in Children's Fairyland's Animal Corral, wishes you a merry Christmas.)

One of the paradoxes of the Holiday season is that there are so few activities for the people the occasion was designed for – little kids.
But there are still a few quality offerings for little ones. The Habitot Children's Museum in Berkeley is holding a Gingerbread House Party on Dec. 21, when the tykes can decorate a giant gingerbread house with candles, cookies, sprinkles and other goodies, and the completed house will be donated to a local family shelter. Admission for the day is free.
Meanwhile, Children's Fairyland in Oakland is about to become Fairy Winterland. Every year from Dec. 14 to 23 the park is transformed by thousands of sparkling lights into a magical winter wonderland celebrating the holidays of many cultures: Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Diwali and Chinese New Year.
This year, Fairy Winterland will feature the Tap Dancing Christmas Trees, puppet versions of "The Nutcracker" and Hans Christian Anderson's "The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep," magicians, jugglers, fire eaters, storytellers, daily dreidel sessions, a Festival of Lights parade every evening, and oodles of hot chocolate and hot cider.
Plus, of course, a visit every day from Santa Claus himself. Each one of Santa's little visitors will have a chance to have their picture taken with him, give him their holiday wish lists, and receive a special holiday treat.
Last, but by no means least, is "Sing You A Merry Christmas," an amazingly creative concert/sing-along/play for the 8-and-under set starring 11 adults and two kids – trumpet players Mercy Betraro and Nic Vamos of El Cerrito, both students at the School of the Madeleine in Berkeley. (He's in the 7th grade; she's in the 8th.)
The show starts with Mercy and Nic alone on stage playing a trumpet fanfare that rings through the entire cathedral, casting a spell on the audience that brings the hubbub to a hush almost immediately.
Suddenly, the audience is surrounded by dancing and singing life-sized toys - the adults in the cast – waving ribbon sticks through and over and around the audience.
Then comes a snowstorm (flashing lights), and the audience gets lost underneath a blanket of "snow" – a white fabric that they have to cooperatively pass over the top of their heads to get out of the "snowstorm."
The toys explain that they have to discover the true meaning of Christmas before they can be given out. They search for clues contained in locked boxes that open only when everyone sings the proper Christmas carol.
Finally, after all the clues are discovered, they have to be put in the correct order, and one lucky girl or boy is chosen to come out of the audience to do it.
Then Mercy and Nic play another fanfare (variations on "Here Comes Santa Claus") and out comes Santa himself to end the show.
"The show is written especially for little kids, and that's unusual," says Jennifer Ashworth, who wrote, directed and produced it with Kristen Jones. "Most times, you have to drag them along and tell them to be quiet, but this show is highly interactive. We want them to sing along."
"Sing You A Merry Christmas will be presented twice, on Dec. 14 and 21, at 11 a.m. Tickets can be obtained by calling 415-392-4400 or visiting gracecathedral.org/calendar.
Merry Christmas!