Some people grow up believing Santa Claus is peeking around every corner, spying at every recess. Christmas songs have popularized Santa as an omniscient being: someone who knows when you’re sleeping, when you’re awake. If you’ve been bad or good. (So be good, for goodness’ sake!)
In my house? Well, Santa wasn’t lurking around every corner as we were growing up; we knew the Big Guy was far too busy for that. My parents patiently explained to their two eager daughters that Mr. Claus was preoccupied setting up for the holidays . . . but that didn’t mean someone wasn’t keeping tabs on whether we were eating our vegetables and practicing piano.
Santa outsourced all that.
In the mid 1990s, Katie and I were introduced to Timothy the Elf, Santa’s head of North Pole communications, via my dad’s old fax machine. A series of whirring beeps from the den signaled a fax transmission was headed our way. “It’s from the North Pole,” Dad said ceremoniously, and Katie and I scrambled to rip the thin paper from his hands. We read it aloud.
Timothy wrote us short missives about Christmas, hoping we’d behaved ourselves and listened to Mom and Dad. In one particularly exciting fax, Timothy included a hastily-drawn self-portrait: pointy ears, big shoes and a winning smile. We hastily sat down to write him back, promising that we had been very good indeed, and Dad disappeared to zing our message up to the North Pole.
Kids these days can chat with Santa on Twitter, watch his progress on radar and communicate directly with him through email. Technology has allowed Mr. Claus to plug into our lives in real time, and I doubt he needs to outsource his communication to Timothy anymore. Tech-savvy elves can do all that.
I imagine Timothy has been forced into an early retirement — another victim of the digital age. As Santa’s former right-hand elf, Tim is probably living the good life far from the icy tundra that was once his home and workplace. Maybe he’s lounging poolside in Bermuda, sipping a frozen hot chocolate and slathering on sunscreen. Perhaps he’s found a lovely little she-elf with whom to share candy canes.
Like many of us, he probably hasn’t touched a fax machine in a decade — but I hope he’s around to chat with my own kids someday.
Though I heard he set up his own Gmail account. Guess we’ll have to write him and find out.
Did you write to Santa when you were little? Ever get a phone call or letter from the North Pole?