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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Before We Leave Christmas

As always, it's important to notice what didn't happen:  the predicted pile-ups of undelivered gifts didn't happen.  The Post Office delivered 99% of its packages on time, while privately owned FedEx was nearly as efficient, at 97%.


Another thing that didn't happen:  soaring gas prices.  As I said a couple of weeks ago, conservatives love to exaggerate these problems that oil industry creates, but their Scrooge warnings didn't work out.  I even saw gas for less than $3 a gallon in suburban Virginia, in the capital's metro area that they consider anathema.  I just hope no one cancelled visits to families because of this fearmongering.  And please remember it is private industry, not the Biden administration, that sets gas prices.


Just wondering:  I grew up with the King James Bible and its "swaddling clothes" in the nativity story.  Lately, I've heard this translated as "strips of cloth."  I think that's a terrible usage, as if Mary tore a piece of cloth into strips to keep her baby warm.  Although she and Joseph lacked a lot, I'm sure they managed some sort of blanket more adequate than "strips of cloth."  A different word, please?  And given that the Bible does specify clothing, let's put something on that naked porcelain baby that the Vatican uses at midnight mass.


Finally, I've told you previously that I read my Arkansas hometown paper primarily for its compilation of news from the past.  In addition to current kids, it has published letters from children to Santa since 1916.  I read them closely, expecting that earlier children would be more humble in their requests -- and was surprised to find that was not necessarily true.  Although earlier kids asked for oranges, apples, and candy, they also requested a lot of toys, sometimes more specifically than simply a doll or a drum.  These long lists probably were a reflection of class, as doubtless the 1916 letters came from affluent families.  No one back then asked sharecroppers' children to write to Santa via the newspaper.


Most modern letters come via schools.  Public education is the great promoter of equality and meritocracy, and today's letters demonstrate different demographics.  The town that once thrived on cotton now depends on chicken processing for Tyson, and most of that work is done by Hispanic immigrants.  Children's names reveal their relatively modest requests, and especially showed their concern for others. 




It also is clear that different teachers suggested different phrasing.  The kindergarteners below doubtless were told that Santa would be interested in their achievements and goals, and they used the suggested format:

·      I am proud to say I ride my bike.  I am working on reading.

·      I am proud to say that I feed my dog.  I am working on swimming.

·      I am proud to say I ride my bike without training wheels.  I am working on tying my shoes.

·      I am proud to say I can skate.  I am working on being nice to my sisters.

·      I am proud to say I wash the dishes.  I am working on roller skating.

·      I am proud to say that I make my bed.  I am working on working.

·      I am proud to say that I love my mom.  I am working on mom. [??]


First graders were more individualistic, with one telling Santa, "You're the best," and adding "I want $9000000000000."  Other requests were more humble.  Although most specified a trendy toy, others reflect low expectations.

·      Can I please have some socks?

·      Can I please have a book and probably one other thing?

·      I hope you have a great Christmas and restful week after.  Please Santa have a great day!  I need new boots for snow.

·      I need socks, I always need some jackets.

·      I wish you a Merry Christmas Santa and Mrs. Claus.  I wish for a watch, but if you can't get one it is ok.


By the third grade, teachers provided less help with spelling and punctuation, and I was surprised to see the number of nine-year-olds who still believed.  Their correspondence often became more of a dialogue. 

·      This year I played flag football and I was wanting to know if you ever played sports?

·      How old are you?  How big is your clay [sleigh?]

·      How have you been I hope you don't get frost bite if you lose a reindeer use me then

·      You know how people can be naughty you can just give them pants shorts skurts and pajamas

·      Can you touch baby elves?  You sould maybe stop eating cookies.

·      In the movie I watched the elves lived forever, does that haped in the north pole?  If your reindeer don't want to fly give them cookies with extra sugar!

·      I want to ask you who is rudolph's dad and mom.

·      Now what I really want to know this, why do I not have an Elf?

·      One question do you like coffee?


Potential problems and warnings were common with this age group:

·      I don't have a chimney.  So go through the vents.

·      Please give my family a present and don't forget my dog mite bite you if unless you give her a treat!

·      Just to warn you my dogs will bark.  Also don't go down the chimney because i have a furnace under it so just go through the front door.  I really want you to get my grandpa a phone so if he is ever in an emergency we can come and help him.


Third-grade letters expressed even more concern for family.  I may be wrong, but I suspect this reflects traditional Hispanic values.

·      My mom needs a vacation to have less stress.

·      Santa I want money so I can buy my sister a prezi [present?]

·      I wish I could go to Texas with my family and friends.

·      [All I want] For Christmas is a Hedwig toy and please give samel all he wants.

·      I have a new sibling it's a girl and she is nine months old and I really love her and you.

·      I really want my sister to get everything she wants.  Would really like decorations for my room and clothes and that's all.


And finally, these additional, occasionally random, thoughts from third graders:

·      My teacher had her baby on Friday, December 3rd, 2021.

·      I would like to have chapter books because I like to read a lot.  I want a new ugly Christmas sweater so I can wear them to school. 

·      Thank you for the gifts last year.  I would like red and black shoes because mine are about to break.

·      I would like a real baby pug cause all my siblings have more than one pet my sister has 2 cats my brother probably 8.  My other brother brennan has a cat named piper and a dog named jaxen and blissa and another dog who died.

·      Please give me a new guitar because mine is so old it was probably befor TVs were invented.

·      I'm so smart you should see me Santa… I want superpowers please santa I want superpowers.  Please santa. 

·      Can you help the people who are sick better and help people be kind?

Not one references to fireworks or guns or military vehicles, which even my brothers and I wanted in the years just after World War II.  Maybe things are getting better.




Among the news items that accumulated while I wallowed in the holidays was a Washington Post story titled "Women More Likely to Die or Be Injured in Car Crashes:  There's a Simple Reason Why."  It's because even the "female" dummies used in testing car safety are modeled on the male anatomy.  Actually, we've known about the greater danger for women in car crashes for a long time, and it's maddening that little has been done about it.  This is especially true given the increasing numbers of female engineers in Detroit, as well as the increasing number of male Asian and Hispanic drivers, who often are smaller than the average American woman.  Yet vehicles get bigger and bigger, to the point that some drivers can barely see over the steering wheel.


Although this article focused on cars, its sub-heading read:  "We live in a world designed for men.  The top shelves in supermarkets are too high for many women to reach.  Many cellphones are too big for an average woman's hand.  And because women's bodies have a lower metabolic resting rate, the typical office is about five degrees too cold for women."  My personal gripe is furniture, which seems to be built solely for retired football players.  It's become hard for me to find chairs or desks or restaurant booths that allow my feet to touch the floor.  I also want to gripe about restroom mirrors hung so high that I see only the top of my head.


Sort of Bigly, ala Trump.  I trust that you saw the news – reported even in the internationally-read New York Times – that three people in The Villages have been charged with voting more than once in last year's election.  You may remember what I've been saying for years:  if there is any voter fraud going on, it is committed by people affluent enough to spend their time that way.  I've said before and I'll say again, this is most likely with people who own more than one home and cast ballots from each.  That's apparently what happened in the fancy retirement town to our north:  they voted there and also in Michigan and New York.  I'm so pleased that the Sumter County Supervisor of Elections has gone after them!  That takes courage in these days when local elected officials are threatened with physical violence by crazed right-wingers. 


Along those same lines, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that despite Bigly Trump's claim that 5,000 ballots were cast by dead people, a nearly year-long investigation by the Georgia Elections Board found just four.  All were cast by family members who thought that their recently deceased loved one could return a ballot that had been mailed to them.  Trump advocates made the most noise about one James Blalock, who did in fact die in 2006.  The 2020 ballot, however, was cast by his widow, Mrs. James Blalock, who uses that as her legal name.


Finally, the horrendous December tornadoes in Kentucky have faded from the news, but I never saw a story about its US senator, Republican Mitch McConnell, offering comfort there.  The president did.



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