Flashback: 825 Main Street in Elwood, Indiana; December 24, 1971…
It was Christmas at the Jolliff home in the two story home on the big hill that overlooked the intersections of Main Street (also IN-28) and 9th Street. The house was filled with the usual holiday familiars, my parents, my Grandpa Leroy, Grandma Donna, my teenage maternal uncles, Ron and Tom, and my maternal great-grandfather, Garrett Clary.
There was a knock at the door, and my mother ushered in Santa Claus!
Elwood was blessed with two outstanding souls who offered their hearts to the citizens of the small community each holiday season, police officer, Harley Shinkle, and Jim King. On this night, Santa King stopped by our house, retrieved the package placed on the front porch, and delivered my Christmas cheer.
After taking me through the usual round of Santa’s questions, he pulled from his pocket a letter. The letter he had received from me earlier that December.
Santa Claus exclaimed it was the best penmanship for a first grader he’d ever received in all his years receiving letters from boys and girls all over the world. For a good minute, Santa praised my letter.
The jolly old elf left our home, but not before laying the letter down on a table.
A little later, Mother picked up the letter to show my proud grandparents, and then there was silence… the worst kind of silence that put the fear of God, and all things holy, in the little soul of a seven year old.
“This is my letter!”
Flashback: several weeks earlier, same house, same year…
The first grade class at Washington Elementary School was learning how to write in cursive. I wanted my letter to Santa to be in cursive, but since I’d not yet mastered the style on my own, Mother wrote out the letter per my dictation, and my job was to copy the letter exactly as Mother had written it in her own beautiful penmanship.
Task accomplished, I proudly showed my 1st grader’s scrawl to Mother who showered me with praise and hugs at my first true attempt writing in cursive. She then instructed me to fold the letter, and place it in the pre-addressed, envelope. We drove up to the post office on Anderson Street where my great-uncle, Dewey Smith, greeted me with my favorite moniker he always used, “Well, hello, Mr. Jolliff.” The letter to Santa was in secure hands with Uncle Dewey, and I was relieved the mission had been accomplished.
What had been accomplished was Operation: Santa Letter… I’d placed Mother’s template-letter in the envelope, and disposed of mine.
Santa did not catch me in this crime, but Mother did when she prepared to show my grandparents!