You better watch out, you better not cry: Timothy is coming to town

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? 

17 thoughts on “You better watch out, you better not cry: Timothy is coming to town

  1. We were old fashioned letter-writers. Even before I could “write”, I would make scribbles on a piece of paper and was gobsmacked when I actually got what I asked for! It was magic!


  2. How clever of mom & dad to use the fax machine and Timothy the elf!

    My sister and I wrote letters to Santa and he wrote back. My father loved to write Santa’s responses to my sister and I and they were always very elaborate and funny. If Santa didn’t bring something we had on our Christmas list, such as the real horse my sister asked for for many years, Santa explained why in detail and always gave us hope for the following year!


  3. I’m pretty sure Timothy still has plenty to do. Like if Santa makes a faux pas on twitter he must have to do a lot of damage control.

    I have no recollection of Santa ever writing or calling me. The half-eaten chocolate chip cookie was enough of a ‘holy cow’ moment for me.


  4. What a fun idea!

    My mother actually works at the post office, so she literally did write the letters from Santa. When we got older she used to write the responses right in front of us.


  5. Love this!! Remind me to tell you the whole story about Spencer and the weather channel radar!!! Thanks to them it made a ten year old questioning if Santa is real have one most exciting Christmas Eve’s ever. ” Santa has to be real if he is being tracked on their radar!! “. We will always cherish those memories…..


  6. My stepmom gave me and my sister an Elf on the Shelf this year. Elle is too young and I didn’t think Scott would buy into it (ha!), but basically you move the Elf around the house each night and tell baby that Elf is watching you and reporting back to Santa. My sister has been using Elf in order to get her three year old to wear her hair in pigtails (“But the Elf will think it’s so cute” or read X book “But the Elf…”). Bahaha! I sometimes think it’s good that our memories are not that sharp when we’re little.

    I believed in Santa until 6th grade (oldest child), so I do remember writing letters, etc. etc. Our children really are growing up in a different era, huh?


  7. This is adorable! I don’t think we ever went so far as faxing Santa, but I do remember leaving out plates of milk and cookies that would be mysteriously eaten the next morning and watching for Santa on our drive home from my grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve.


  8. I don’t remember writing letters to Santa when I was young, but my 6 year old nephew wrote his letter to Santa Claus c/o the Rochester MN post office and he received a post card from Santa, which is a picture of Santa and Mrs. Claus holding the envelope and reading the letter that he sent!! I was in awe!


  9. I certainly wrote to Santa but never got a response. Our neighbor’s grandson was telling me last night that Santa sent him a video and that Santa has his picture and has him on the nice list.


  10. My parents were never THAT clever. We did the old-fashioned hand-written notes (though not through the mail – we just left a note for him on Christmas Eve with cookies and in the morning, we’d see that Santa had left a reply) and I remember my mom especially getting her friends to write the “reply” letter because her handwriting was/is really distinctive and my brother and I would have recognized it.

    This year, to help keep my 7-year-old nephews in line, my brother-in-law found the Santa app for the iPhone. It’s a simple app – it just replicates what the screen looks like when you’re on a phone call, but it shows a picture of Santa and says “North Pole” so my nephews are convinced their dad is actually talking to Santa.


  11. We did the milk and cookies thing, but that was about it. I swear I heard sleigh bells on the roof one year, but my mom says it was a figment of my imagination. Hmmmmm…..


  12. One year I answered our phone and was greeted by Santa, who asked if I had been good that year (of course!). He then asked to speak to my dad. Not once did I question why he had never called before, nor did I think to eavesdrop on my dad’s conversation with “Santa.” I would have been a terrible spy. I just took it for granted that Santa called me and then verified my claims with my dad. It was years later that it even crossed my mind this was just my dad’s friend who wanted to pull one over on gullible little me.


  13. Oh what fun! My uncle used to dress up as Santa and come to our house on Christmas Eve with a large bag of gifts. We all had to hide in the bedroom and fake sleep when he came, but he would call out the appropriate “ho ho ho’s” and we could see his boots underneath the bedroom door….


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