Requests, wishes, and dreams—all lost in the mail.

Rick Bragg North Pole
Credit: John Cuneo

Dear Santa (or whoever),

Apparently, you did not get my letter this time last year. I understand how this can happen. Mail must be unpredictable up there, in the permafrost. It may be that a reindeer ate it. It could happen. We have a donkey down here in Alabama that ate the cuff off my sport coat. Really. But I digress.

I know you did not get my letter because I did not receive the Camaro (pearl white, convertible, V-8, with saddle tan interior) I hinted so strongly for you to bring me on Christmas morning. I am not bitter about it. I will just keep rattling around in the same old smoking, raggedy, 12-year-old Toyota, till it wheezes to a shuddering stop, probably in front of the scrapyard.

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If it should break down, in traffic, while I am taking my poor old mother to the doctor, I suppose that is not your fault. Do not worry about us. We will probably be fine. I am sure someone would pull over, if they saw us limping, me and my 80-year-old mother, through the ragweed along the side of the interstate. Anyway, someone probably needed that Camaro a lot worse than we did, probably some spoiled teenager who stopped believing in you when she was 5.

It is a little harder, down here, to believe, because the very idea of a sled is hard to imagine in red mud or soybeans or saw palmetto. Yet I still do, though I admit my conviction is becoming a little strained.

I mean, I did not ask for an Italian sports car. I did not even write to you for a new Land Cruiser. I hinted for a Chevy. But I guess that doesn't matter, since you never saw my note.

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This made me suspicious, though: While I did not get the convertible I hinted at, I did get the underwear and socks. That makes me think I might have been right in my supposition that you do not even see most of the letters sent to you at the North Pole, and that you have some poor flunky screen your mail. That must be why everybody gets socks and underwear.

It may even be, considering the volume of correspondence you must receive, that you have outsourced the work to some offshore clearing center, or, worse, have it handled digitally. This brings tears to my eyes, though I guess there is no reason why you would be any different from any other private corporation or public utility. Not long ago, for instance, I called 411 on my Verizon to get the number for a barbecue restaurant and got three lawyers and a toe doctor. Even though I knew it was a computer, I cussed it sideways. But I digress, again.

Santa, or whatever overworked elf is actually reading this, I have decided to give you a second chance. It is said that you have magical powers, and I have seen in movies that you can read the mind of a child who writes you and thinks only of others, asks only for them, and you bring him a choo choo anyway.

So I ask, once more, only for good things for people close to me, and maybe good things for the whole wide world.

And snow. I would like to see some snow.

Falling on a Ferrari.

If I ain't gonna get a Camaro, I might as well not get a Ferrari.

RICK'S LATEST BOOK: My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South, $26.99;