I walked into the Lee Rd. library this afternoon, where they have all manner of Tolkein displays in honor of the new Hobbit movie, and saw on the shelf at the top of the stairs Tolkein's Father Christmas Letters. Have you ever seen this? It is freaking amazing. Yearly, Tolkein would write a long letter to his children from Father Christmas, complete with beautiful illustrations, including hand-drawn postage stamps from the North Pole.
I scooped it up and paged through it and cried, sitting there at the little computer desk by the window. Overwhelmed with the intricate, superfluous beauty of it, with the tenderness and love contained in that effort, with the sense of persistent wonder maintained, even as WWII invades the frame of the fantasy.
And I was made so glad about the little ritual we have in our house. I acquired a Santa Mailbox when Z was a toddler, because I couldn't find an advent calender in the bookstore on Nov. 30. The first year, all we had to do was deposit a pre-printed pseudo handwritten letter from Santa into the box each night before bed. They had stories and crafts and little bits of Santa wisdom on them. All the years since - 7? - we have had to fill the box with our own inventions - usually letters from the Elves, sometimes a brief, quickly scrawled note from the man in red himself, occasionally a gift (it was the Elves who first provided us with Hanukkah candles - they do not adhere to any one faith, our Elves) or a suggestion for an activity, once in a while candy. It is a pain in the ass, but my tears over Tolkein suggest to me that it is worth it. Z is nearly 10, and very smart. I don't think she actually *believes* and yet, every morning of December the first thing she does is hurry downstairs to see what the Elves have brought.