Driving down the snowy interstate, he wondered if he’d just plain ole lost his ever loving middle-aged mind. Who in his right faculties would drive this far just to personally hand a man a letter?
As he drove in the early afternoon traffic he tried to rationalize his decision to even do this in the first place.
‘It was the right thing to do. It’ll be good for me to get this off of my chest’ he thought. He even said it out loud as he changed lanes and sped up.
‘It’ll be closure to let this man know about these things. He’ll understand. If anyone would understand, it would be him.’
Pulling up to the court square of the small town, he parked and sat in his truck for a few minutes. He sat there, mulling over what he was about to do. He had driven 4 hours just to come to meet with this guy. It’d been many years since he had last seen him. Sitting in the idling truck, Mr. Hall wondered if the man had changed much over the years.
He had made this personal sojourn under the guise of doing some Christmas shopping. The wife was at work and the kids were still in school. His daughter was old enough to drive and she’d pick up her little brother when he gets out of football practice. Therefore, Mr. Hall’s afternoon was his to do with as he pleased and nobody would know where he had gone or what he had done.
He finally cut the engine off, took a deep breath and opened the truck door. He was in luck as there weren’t any other people around as he made his way towards the man. He felt his heart beat a little faster as his laced boots trekked up the cold sidewalk. The last time that he walked up this same sidewalk was many years ago. He had moved away, married and had children. He had a perfect life. Mark Hall had the life most men would dream to have. So why was it so important to do this today? He couldn’t explain it but he knew that it was simply something that he had to do.
He had to give that man this letter.
And it had to be done today. He turned 50 years old last week and he wasn’t getting any younger. And besides, it’d be a long time before the man would come this way again.
Christmas music played through the tinny old speakers that he remembered as a kid. People were in and out of shoe and clothing stores splattered around the court square. The stores display windows were sprayed with fake snow that smelled funny. Their best wares, clothes and toys were displayed just like they’d always been.
Larger cities had malls and were much busier and fancier, but in his small hometown, life had pretty much stood still. Maybe that’s why he wanted to come home today. Deep down he wanted to meet this man in a place where he was comfortable to give him this letter. He wanted that intangible comfort of home when he was stressed.
His heart raced even faster and for a moment he paused his walk as he walked up to the man. But then in one giant leap of faith that he had done the right thing, he took the final step.
The red velvet sleeve with white fur extended from the large plywood house first. He had come to this exact same house when he was a little boy and asked for a bicycle with a banana seat and a shifter on the center bar like a grown ups car would have. The space heater had been replaced inside and the candy canes had been repainted.
Following the hand came the full red and white suit as he stepped out of his house that had ‘North Pole’ painted over the cutout door. His black boots shined in the afternoon sun as he stood tall to stretch out.
The two men stood there for a minute saying nothing. Mr. Hall opened his mouth finally to say something but before he could, the great man in the suit put his white-gloved index finger up to his lips and quietly whispered ‘shhhhh.’ At the same time, the large man extended his other gloved hand as if to receive something. It was if he knew what was going on. Maybe he had seen this before?
And with that invitation, Mr. Hallman took the letter out of his back bluejeans pocket and put it in the extended white-gloved hand. For a moment their eyes met, no words were exchanged but the old man seemed to understand what was going on.
Taking the envelope from Mr. Hall’s hand, he turned to walk down the sidewalk by himself to read this letter. He opened the seal and began to read the adult man’s cursive handwriting as he walked.
I know this may seem weird, but I just need to write these things down and give them to someone that will not judge me. And it needs to be someone that I don’t know. Below are things that I’d like for Christmas.
For Christmas this year, I’d like my friend’s cancer to go away. She has a husband, 2 children, a grandson and family and friends who need her so badly.
I would like my wife’s rheumatoid arthritis to not progress. I’d like it to actually go away but I’ll settle for it not progressing any more. We have so many things to do and we’ve just kind of gotten started. Even after 35 years of marriage, we have a good life ahead of us. I hate to see her suffer with swollen and stiff joints. Although she’s adapted to it, it hurts her still sometimes.
I would like to live long enough that my grandkids have great memories of me. I would like that when my granddaughter is playing with her own grandkids one day in the park and a man walks by them and she smells his cologne, she is reminded of me. The scent in the air of the man’s cologne as he walks by reminds her of her grandfather and the laughter they shared. And she recalls how much he loved her. She closes her own now-aged eyes and she smiles. She picks up her grandchild and then begins to laugh and share her memories of her petaw when she was a little girl.
I would like my kids to have successful lives that keep them busy but not too busy that they can’t enjoy their lives. I would like them to understand that growing old happens very quickly. I would like for them to dance while they can.
I would like my mother to have peace and not hurt as she lives out her years in the nursing home.
I would like my friend’s granddaughter to be born without the birth defects that they are expecting.
I would like for people to be good again. To have some sort of values and stop just doing whatever they want. I would like for the future generations to understand the ramifications of doing and saying whatever they want before it’s too late for them. They need to understand that just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean that you SHOULD that something. I fear for our country now that many people want to flaunt and execute ‘freedoms’ just because they can.
These are the things that I carry around with me. Things that I need to be the strong man over. I’m the fixer and I can’t fix these things. Everyone looks to me and I wouldn’t change it. But at the same time….I don’t know. I just needed to let someone know these things that I are on my mind. And it needed to be another man, walking on this Earth, that I don’t even know. But I need to know that he won’t laugh at me. Because these things are real. And I mean, who better than you to give this letter to?
I have been a good man this year. I’ve worked on days when I didn’t even feel like getting out of bed. I’ve prayed for all of these things here. I’ve been on a local mission trip to help build homes for underprivileged families. I’ve learned that being a servant leader to my wife and kids is for the betterment of all of us.
I’m trying my very best to do my very best. But sometimes, my very best just isn’t enough.
I know you have a lot of other things to tend to. I just wanted to let you know what a grown man’s Christmas list would be.
So, if you could see what you could do about any of these things, I’d surely appreciate it.
I’ll leave you a steak and a beer under the tree.
Thanks and Merry Christmas,
Oh and football. If you could do something about Tennessee’s losing streak that we keep having, year after year, well that’d be just great.
After reading the letter, Santa folded it back up and put it in his pocket. He walked back up the sidewalk to his little white house where Mr. Hall was seated on a bench beside it.
As he approached, Mr. Hall stood up. He said ‘I’m sort of embarrassed, I guess. It must sound like I need in-house therapy and big coloring crayons. And, I don’t know, maybe you are that therapy? I can’t explain it but I feel better knowing that another man sees the things that are on my mind. Please don’t report me to the police, lol’.
‘Mr. Hall, Mark if I may, Mark this list is an amazing list indeed. It is the list of a man that has a heart bigger than all of Christmas. I noticed 2 things on your list: 1-you didn’t ask for any physical thing. And 2-you didn’t ask for anything for yourself. I’m sure you have things that you need help with; bones starting to age a bit, landscaping needing done and things you just can’t get around to doing. And even though your truck is nice, albeit a Ford..haha most men would have asked me for a new truck. But you only asked for things for other people.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to do anything about any of those things on your list, and you know that as well.
But what I do know is that a man with a heart as big as this letter portrays then there is nothing else that would serve his life any better. Many men go through life with cold and closed hearts that never learn the love you seem to have. They’ll never know the joys and the pains you have because they simply don’t care about anyone but themselves. And a heart built for love, Mark Hall, is the greatest gift of all. You are a good man. Indeed a good man that I’m glad came to see me today’.
‘Well, thank you, Santa?’ Mark smiled sheepishly as he shook the man’s hand one last time.
‘You could call me Ben. But, I think we’d both rather you stick with calling me Santa.
As far out as it may seem, deep down and regardless of our ages, we all need a little bit of magic at least once a year to look forward to in our lives.
We need it because even men our ages do best when, for just a short time in our gown-man-lives, we are little boys again. We want a new Lionel train set with a smoking steam engine, a Matchbox car and a Tinker Toy set.
Sometimes we can be too grown-up and too serious. We will always have the need to be the responsible fixer and to be ‘the man’. And that’s ok. It’s just how we’re built. Go with it.
But on that one very special night in a year, we gown men with children and responsibilities can walk outside alone into the crisp night air. We can look up to the glossy black sky that is pierced with little white stars on Christmas Eve, and just for a single moment in our man-lives, we are little boys again and we
That’s the best that I can tell about it,
~Mark Bedwell (not Hall)
Merry Christmas 2018!