Halcyon Days

Columns and reflections by Terry Britt

Archive for December 2008

A Long Overdue Letter

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santa-with-list-09Dear Santa:

I won’t be offended if you have a little trouble remembering me. After all, it has been more than 30 years since the last time I wrote to you before Christmas.

That letter was when I had just turned 12 a couple of months prior. Odd to think, but back then kids were allowed to be kids a little longer than they are now. These days, you’re out of “childhood” the moment you hit 8 years old and get whisked into the “pre-teen consumer market” category.

Anyway, what happened after my last letter to you is simple to tell and difficult to explain. About two years after that Christmas, I suddenly became a professional journalist – sportswriter, to be exact – and that was at the same time I reached high school. I started growing up, thinking I’d go along an expected path of higher education, finding a girlfriend who would become a wife, and starting a family, including kids who would take their turn writing to you every Christmas season.

But somehow, it never quite worked out that way, though for years on end, I really, really tried.

Oh, I managed to be married just long enough to bring one child into the world, a very awesome kid who has grown into an even more awesome young man. Despite my best efforts, though, the wife/home/2.5 kids/2 cars/dog has never materialized. Now I’m 43, my son is finishing high school, I really have no one to care for, no girlfriend or wife, and not so much a career as “Gee, I’m really fortunate to be employed.”

And I don’t think I’ve been this happy and content at Christmas since….well, since I was 12.

Then I thought to myself, “Why not treat this Christmas like I AM 12 again?” So, bizarre as it might strike you and everyone else at the North Pole, I hope you might indulge me in a small but significant wish list of things I would really like this Christmas.

First, I’d really like a new bicycle. It doesn’t have to be a 25-speed, super lightweight aluminum competition model; I live in Canton, Texas, not Calais, France, or some similar place where bicyclists are not considered speed bumps for pickup truck drivers. It can be a simple, no-frills 10-speed bike. The point behind this request is realizing how important exercise is now that I’m older. I also miss all the fun I had a long time ago riding my old all-terrain bicycle around the neighborhood. I bet it could be just as much fun again now.

Some of my newspaper colleagues and I recently had a conversation about how sad it is you don’t see kids playing outside anymore, generally because they can’t (due to safety concerns) or they won’t (because TV, Internet and video games rule). Maybe if a few of them can look out their window and see a 40-something guy having the time of his life pedaling two wheels, they will be encouraged to follow suit.

Second, I’d like a full-sized soccer ball. In a perfect world about 20 years ago, I would have been competing for a place on the roster at Liverpool or FC Barcelona. Alas, I was born on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and we didn’t even have a soccer program when I was in public school. There was a brief fling about 10 years ago with a local men’s rec league that had started up, but it (the league) didn’t last long and I’ve had to be content with just covering high school or college soccer games for newspapers.

But the one thing I’ve never lost in all the time that has passed is imagination, something that will keep you inspired and content even in the worst of times. I live down the street from a city park with soccer fields, so if I had a new soccer ball, I could go down there on a Sunday afternoon and at least pretend I’m scoring the winning goal in the Champions League final.

I’d also like a few new “old” video games for my Genesis and Dreamcast, names familiar to anybody between the ages of 20-30 but a head-scratcher to anyone under 10. Despite what I wrote a few paragraphs above, I can’t deny enjoying the pursuit of a high score or completing a level. I think it all started with that Video Pong system you delivered the last time I wrote you. I still have fond memories of all the afternoons bouncing a digital ball back and forth across the TV screen.

From there, I graduated to an Atari system a couple of years later and occasionally spending some of my earnings in quarters at the local arcade, and a classic gamer was born. Despite the years, that has never faded away. The systems I have now are considered “classics” (another way of saying old and inferior). What I have come to appreciate, though, is just because something (or someone) grows old doesn’t mean it is useless and incapable of delivering happiness.

I imagine you have several warehouses at the North Pole and you can probably find a few game titles among the overstock/discontinued stuff. I’ll be quite happy to take them off your hands and free up a little space.

Then there are clothes. Now, normally this is a subject of indifferent boredom when compared to toys and games, but as time has passed, I’ve realized it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s just a question of injecting a little fun and personality into the particular piece of clothing.

In my case, I’ve got a couple of suggestions you can use as examples. For instance, maybe the elfin seamstresses can whip up a T-shirt (I wear a large) with the wording “I’m not a real reporter, but I play one in the newspapers” or “Careful, or you’ll wind up on my front page”. My son is considering the University of New Mexico for college, so maybe I could get a lightweight jacket with a cool wolf on the back. Better yet, it could be printed with “El papa del Lobo,” which I’m sure would be an instant conversation piece among the Hispanic men I see at the coin-op laundry every weekend.

Well, that about covers it, Santa. Gosh, I feel so much better after having taken the big step of reconnecting with you after so long. I know you’ve got a very busy day coming up soon and a lot of children’s requests to fill, but I hope you’ll take time to read this, maybe for a good laugh during your next tea break, if nothing else. Besides, things might change a lot for me by this time next year.

Then again, I almost hope they don’t.

Terry Britt doesn’t have a chimney in his apartment, but will be leaving milk and cookies by the Christmas tree anyway. You can reach him at terrybritt@hotmail.com.

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Written by terrybritt

December 16, 2008 at 1:54 am