Notebook of a Secret Santa

Happy holidays, Ben Abbott.

I'm afraid I haven't been a very good Eliot House Secret Santa to you. Stifled by the intensely academic season and the economy of the Square, I gave generic presents--chocolate, pizza, a book.

But I tried. With (almost) every present I included a note, a cheesy nonsensical rhyming note, the kind even Hallmark would reject.

For example, remember the freeze-dried food? I rhymed "concoctions" with "emotions" in that one. It was an attempt. Any real poet would have cringed, but it was an attempt.

Though my writing wasn't very good, I considered these notes the most significant part of my gifts--the only part that set the pizza I gave you apart from one you could buy yourself.


If you're reading this piece, you must realize that writing has a very important place in my life. Unfortunately, gift appreciation doesn't rank as high. Yes, I'm one of those people who always reads the card before opening the present.

When the editor of this supplement asked for pieces on gift-giving, I volunteered to write "something heartwrenching."

But as I searched my memory for something on which to base this piece, I realized that gifts have never been very important in my family.

Though I got my share of trendy items in aesthetically wrapped boxes, I remember no presents, except perhaps a few books.

But although I've already read those books--and the toys have broken and the clothes no longer fit--I still have my autograph book my parents bought me for my first grade graduation.

I still have that book, where my mother wrote me an inspirational message from my mother, my father wrote me a poem, and my brother drew smily faces surrounded by the vowels and the numbers from zero to nine, which he was just learning.

It's not like I really need it, because I still remember what everyone wrote to me. But I treasure the writing, the personal element. So the book stays in my room at home, the smiley faces and numbers still blazoned on the pages.

So think of my poems as my real gifts to you. They were my attempt to communicate with you despite the veil of secrecy inherent in the concept of a Secret Santa.

And think of this article as the ultimate present, Ben, because that's how I mean it.

One note, though; there is one exception to my lackadaisical approach to gift-receiving. As I write this piece, I still don't know who my Secret Santa was.

All I want for Christmas is to find out my Secret Santa's identity. So if you're reading, Santa, please tell me who you are. I'd like to write you a thank you note. Maybe I'll even do it in verse.

Please tell me anyway, though.

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