For the past couple years, one of my granddaughters has been keeping regular correspondence with an elf named Crystal Jingle. Oddly this long-distance relationship has served as a salve to my growing cynicism.
That a 9-year-old would so dutifully put pencil to paper is heartwarming enough, particularly at a time when writing letters seems as outdated as rotary phones. And that she has the initiative to “borrow” envelopes (usually from me) and place them in the family mailbox, albeit without postage or an address beyond “North Pole,” is further testament to the power of faith. Belief is a weapon, and it can conquer the unimaginable, including such trivialities as cost and distance.
Granted, some of these missives carry the inevitable hurts of Ava’s limited world, including complaints about a younger sister: Loren is a BIG BULLY to me. I know how she[can] learnds her lesson by poting her on the noty list! I try to be nice but she is mean back!
Some are short notes: Dear elf can you get me a computer?
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But perhaps the most enchanting attempt to connect is her “Question Book,” which pressures the elusive Crystal Jingle into self-revelation. What is your favorite color? Favorite thing to do? Flower, book, favorite kid? On another page she asks Crystal to draw her family.
Some inquiries are piercing, surely the nascent signs of an investigative mind: How did you get your magic? Can you give me magic? What is the secret of Christmas?
Even during the summer, when the holidays can feel so far away, Ava was consistent in her allegiance to her pen pal. She sent post cards that chronicled her small life.
Crystal Jingle has had some fun of her own, of course. One of her most interesting replies, from a few months back: Dear Ava, I hope you are enjoying your summer. I miss you! I heard you are trying to reach me. We don’t get our mail out here on Vacation Island, but I will write back when I return to the North Pole after Halloween. Here are some pictures of my vacation. I love you! Wintery Wishes.
Keeping true to her whimsical form, the “I” in Crystal Jingle’s signature is crowned with a red-ink heart. So sweet.
Unbeknownst to my granddaughter, her letters have been an unending source of entertainment for the family, even (and especially) those notes infused with plaintive pleas and childish curiosities. They’re always good for a chuckle, and something more, too: a joyous sense that innocence still has a place in a punishing world tainted by too much materialism, too much hate, too much fear, too much of all those foul things we would like to keep at bay.
One day, probably in the not too distant future, this letter exchange will come to an end. A classmate will whisper doubt in her ear. Or a distracted adult will slip up. It’s bound to happen, and I will mourn the transition in the same way I’ve grieved the eye-opening lessons of my own youth.
Some Scrooges maintain that leading children on in this fashion is a form of neglect. I disagree. There should be a place in every child’s life where elves and fairies exist, where Santa Claus squeezes down chimneys and the Tooth Fairy rewards those whose gummy smiles have changed. I truly believe that magic can linger long after the props of fantasy have been exposed.
After all, adulthood ushers in trials and troubles soon enough.