Monthly Archives: September 2016

70s Letter to Santa

My sister Sandy and I cleared out my father’s dresser drawer of knick-knacks after his funeral. Some things we set aside for the whole family to go through later and decide who gets what: his wedding ring, personal notebooks, pocket tools, photographs. Some things we threw away: free sewing kits he would never have dreamed of using, perished rubber bands, cheap giveaway key rings. We agreed between us that Sandy’s son, as the only smoker in the family, could inherit the collection of cigars and matchboxes. And I was clearly the logical recipient of this, my own letter to Santa from the mid-70s.

It’s written on the back of a mimeographed PTA circular from 1973, which would fit with when our old dog died. However, that would make me 6, and it’s hard to believe even I was reading Little Women and competently using colons at that age. (Little Women was crossed out because Mom pointed out to me that we already owned a copy). I can’t remember actually receiving a single thing on this list, so it makes it hard to date more precisely: it could have been anything up to a few years later.

Clearly Dad was tickled by the small details: the guess at a precise mailing address on the envelope, the attempt to sneak in a puppy at the end of the list. He himself loved dogs and would have been an advocate for this gift, but he acknowledged that Mom had a right of veto as the actual picker-up of poop.

Sandy and I laughed until we cried at grade-school me, and then I cried a bit more at the thought of him keeping my letter in his dresser for 40 years. To him I think I always remained that droll, precocious child. I miss him and her. And I still want that puppy dog.santa

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Dad and The Simpsons

American patriot, master of the atom, scourge of the despot. Such was the self-written epitaph of Charles Montgomery Burns on The Simpsons, but it’s not a bad fit to my father. Edgar Alexander McLean was a nuclear physicist, a veteran of WWII, and a tireless campaigner for the local community. But I think he identified most closely with Homer Simpson, an ordinary Dad just trying to get through his days without screwing things up too badly. He could generally be brought to see the funny side of life, and I have fond childhood memories of laughing with him until we could both hardly breathe over episodes of Fawlty Towers and Monty Python, and more recently The Simpsons. I owe him my sense of humour, along with so many other things.

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