Was raining outside the other day so all of my outdoor chores were canceled. My wife suggested I clean and organize my closet. This meant phasing out clothes that I no longer wore (or could no longer fit into), and taking the disgards to the local Goodwill.
My closet is also storage for my junk collection. Odds and ends, flea market finds, collectables and not-so-collectables. Things I meant to sell on Ebay but never got the chance. The back of my closet is piled with boxes and the shelf on top is loaded all the way to the ceiling. It's a wonder that I could fit any clothes at all.
This was going to be an all-day project and there was no way I was going to get out of it.
I attacked it without mercy. Shirts, long out of style, had to go. Pants, though never worn, would no longer fit since my waistline had expanded. One bag was filling rapidly and another would soon be needed. Boxes with old newspaper articles and magazines from the 1980's were pitched. I could almost see the back of the closet!
I was pleased with my progress. After all, I would now have room for new collections and stuff that I would gather for the next several years.
One last box to look at. A cardboard box on the top shelf slightly larger than a shoebox. I had written, "Santa's Treasure Chest" on the outside of it, but had forgotten what I put in it.
Now what kind of stuff would Santa keep in his treasure chest?
I had to open the box to see. Sure enough, there was genuine treasure inside. Treasure that was so good that it far outshined gold, silver and diamonds. The minute I saw it, it brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye.
Inside was every letter, drawing and Christmas list that every child had ever given to me, sitting on Santa's lap.
"Dear Santa, I would like some books and games and a Webkins for Christmas. And bring my baby brother a teddy bear. I love you, Giannia."
"Dear Santa, For Christmas I would like a Lightning McQueen car and High School Musical on DVD. I have been a very good boy this year - just ask my Grandma. Thank-you, James."
Some brought a lump to my throat.
"Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is for my Daddy to come home. He is a soldier in Iraq and I really miss him. Please Santa? Nathan."
There was artwork of all kinds, from scribbled pages out of a coloring book to elaborate mosaics of Santa made from pieces of construction paper. There were beautiful colored pictures made with crayons that was done with love, care and diligence.
Some of the letters were in fancy envelopes with a bow or a small ornament attached to it.
Looking at all of this treasure instantly took me back to Christmas of last year. I was Santa Claus again, with my red suit, throne and all the settings. I looked at the letters and thought of each child that gave one to me. I can remember children, holding out their letters with pride, but also a little shy about getting too close.
"You wrote me a letter? How very nice. I'll keep this and know exactly what kind of presents to bring you."
"Here Santa, I drew this for you!"
"You drew this for ME? I LOVE this! You are a wonderful artist! Instead of leaving me cookies, I would like it very much if you could leave me some more of your artwork. I promise you, that I will take this back to the North Pole with me and keep it forever!"
And I did. Every letter and every drawing that I received, I promised that I would keep.
Occasionally, a parent would signal to me to sneak the letter or artwork back to them. I would always oblige, knowing how this was important to a parent who wanted to collect as many memories of their child's life that they possibily could, before they grew "too old" to draw pictures or write letters.
But the letters I got to keep became treasure to me, because they brought back memories and feelings of a happiness that I was fortunate enough to experience.
And that made it more precious than gold!