No. 1, North Pole
24th December 2008
Everyone here at the North Pole is busy preparing for Christmas Eve. Mrs. Claus is mending my red suit as I had so many holes in the knees from sliding down all of those chimneys! I'm writing to remind you to be a good boy. Help out your family as often as you can.
Mrs. Claus and I have been checking our list and seen that you have started school this year! That's excellent! Being five (nearly) is tough and you are such a smart boy for your age. Even though some days it has been difficult to be a good boy, I see that you have tried very, very hard! Please remind your sisters to be good as well! I hope you are as eager and excited about Hanukkah, Happy Holidays!
Your mother told me what a good little boy you have been all year. Well there was the time you told your sister you were too irritating to go to sleep when she ordered you to...
and the other time when you wouldn't listen to Mommy ... but all those were little blips in your niceness. You have been mostly obedient and proved to be both observant and intelligent. You are careful about all your allergies and do not eat without knowing if it is good for you. I wish some adults were that good. You are also a good brother to both your sisters and even promised to take them to New York when you were grown up.
The elves and I agreed that you deserve to get something extra-special this year. I've been told that you're hoping to find a number of things under your Christmas tree. We'll do our very best. As I said we are very busy, I have had one elf slip in the workshop and he's now on crutches; some of the reindeer are coming down with the sniffles too. But Santa can handle these problems and not long from now, I'll be leaving the North Pole for my trip on Christmas. The reindeer and I are planning to arrive in there just after midnight to deliver your gift. Please be sure to hang your stocking and be in bed early.
I thought then I would give you this folk tale from India - written especially for you by a wise old man - no relation of mine.
I am excited to begin my long journey to the home of the many good little boys and girls all around the world, like you Jake! I must go now to check on the busy little elves in the workshop where they are making the toys and gifts. But before I go, here’s a little joke for you:
What do elves learn in school?
Jake was playing with the food on his plate. Pancakes with blueberry jam – the jam made a halo around his mouth but the pancakes remained on the plate, bedraggled and shapeless lumps.
“Jake - after I made you your special jam pancakes! “ exclaimed his mother as she came into the dining room. His fork continued to make random metallic scrapes across the plate. No food was actually being conveyed to his mouth which remained slack-jawed and half-open. The TV was on and showing his something that was fascinating him - about African Savannah and Australopithecus.
Firm fingers flicked off the TV and elicited a pained yowl fromhim. "Mommy the jam is my favourite but the pancakes aren't."
She ignored his protests and spooned out some extra jam onto his plate. She turned to go out of the room; being kind as well as wise she gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“If that plate is empty by the time I am back I will tell you a new story today.”
It was and she did, and here it is:
There was a time when all the animals wore drab brownish grey coats. The tiger and the lion, the bear and the deer –they all had the same look.
Now this often lead to confusion, the bear enveloped Mrs. Deer in a bear hug in attempt to surprise his wife. He got his years soundly boxed by Mrs. Bear and two painful butts in the midriff from Stag. So the animals all decided to petition the Wise Old Man for relief.
The WOM (Wise Old Man for short) scratched his chin; since he had a beard it merely looked as though he was running pensive fingers through those silver locks – but he was scratching. He closed his eyes and thought long and hard; in fact he might have had a nap while he was at it. Power napping refreshes the mind and he came up with a solution.
“All of you who wish a change from your dull all-weather wear come to the large clearing tomorrow at ten o’clock.” He then walked back into the depths of his cave where none dared follow. There was a murmuring of excitement and they all went back content. The night passed in happy anticipation and they woke as if to the first day of spring.
The sun was slanting golden shafts across their shoulders as they made their way to the clearing. The Tiger found it very hot and lay down under some tall grass. The deer felt the same way but they were careful to remain upwind and a fair distance away. They found a small bush with abundant foliage for their sunscreen. The babes tucked under it carefully, the parents were in the open - Mamma Deer closer to the bush.
The lion sprawled majestically in full sunshine; the bear peered out from behind the fork of a small tree. The tree was barely as thick as his arms, but the fellow thought he would keep a wary eye on the Deer family.
WOM walked out on the dot of eleven and raised both arms above his head – he said one sentence quickly, thrice over. It sounded like “French fries fried twice” – but of course, it must have been an incantation in some magic language.
There was flash of something brilliant; half-blinded, the animals closed their eyes in instinctive reaction. When they saw once more, they marveled at it all.
The lion was a majestic tawny golden yellow; he shook his mane and paraded around with soft growls of pleasure. He threw back his head and the mane danced in a golden cowl. The tiger was tawny too –with rich black stripes from the shadow of the grasses that had shielded him; he purred with satisfaction.
The little fawn had delicate dots of white on a buff background from the dancing spots of light that filtered through the bush, Mamma Deer was an all over coffee brown and Stag was a rich deep golden brown.
The bear had an attractive black 'V' on its chest - and a coat of a deeper richer brown.
The Crow had opted to stay in deep in the branches of a tree and he was a handsome jet black. He gave a loud caw of pleasure as he flew off.
WOM gathered his robes around himself as he prepared to depart the clearing; just then a grey-brown drab squirrel ran up to him.
“Sir, sir, wait! I couldn’t come before as my children were unwell and I had to wait for the baby-sitter to turn up.”
“You should have asked the baby-sitter to come early today – you knew how important it was. I am afraid it is too late; the special rays are nearly spent – the sun is too high in the sky to cast shadow.”
A little tear trickled unbidden from the forlorn creature and she whispered,”Sir, the only sitter I could get was the tortoise - he has his patterned shell to flaunt. All the other animals wanted to come here. Well, you know Ol' Tortoise – he did his best, but he could not make it in time - despite setting out last night. You told us about this only yesterday.”
She bowed her head and put up her little paw to dash the tears away. Then lifted it in determination and turned liquid brown eyes upon him, "Very well, I see that I must pay for my tardiness."
WOM felt a sob catch in his heart at her evident sorrow and he beckoned her closer.
"Wait, little one. Your late arrival was from caring and concern - you did your best and you blame no one else. Let me see what I can do."
She scampered up to his feet. He bent down and lifted her in one gentle hand. He raised the other in a blessing over her head and the sun from up high sent its blessing too.
Lo, and behold – the squirrel now had three handsome stripes running down its back. It bowed deep in respect to the WOM and scampered off to show off its new clothes. It wears those stripes proudly today and as it is chittering to you from that tree branch it is really asking – “Jake - see my stripes? The WOM gave it to me in as a personal gift and blessing."
Amy looked down to see Jake's head nuzzling her arm, fan of eyelashes contentedly spread on pink cheeks. The lips were pursed in an almost smile that spoke of happy dreams - of wise old mean and a happy world perhaps?