The envelopes come in all sizes and colors.
About half carry a postage stamp.
Much of the handwriting is youthfully clumsy.
But the contents make each worth opening.
The pile of letters to Santa that arrive on the desks of U.S. Postal Service workers in Lawrence contain messages of humility, hope and humor.
"Some are really cute," said carrier Rose Campbell, who helps Santa and the elves answer mail from children.
She said recent warm weather and the absence of snow may have kept kids from focusing on Christmas as much as in the past. That might explain why the Lawrence post office has received less than half the normal quantity of letters addressed to Santa at the North Pole, she said.
Postal workers take the letters seriously. Groups of postal employees have "adopted" children desperate to have their holiday wishes come true. Other wish lists have been passed to social service agencies willing to lend a hand. Letters containing a return address receive a response from Santa.
Postmaster Bill Reynolds has read plenty of emotionally powerful letters to Santa in 30 years of postal service work. Tearjerkers help add clarity to the holiday season, he said.
"The toughest are kids writing in about their parents' health -- an illness or tragedy in the family."
Campbell said many letters begin with a first-person account of whether a child had been naughty or nice. That may be followed by a question about how Santa is doing. Then the youngsters get to the heart of the message.
In general, the wish lists give Santa a better idea what presents a child would like to receive. However, Santa also knows that parents, family or guardians have other special things in mind. That could mean a child's plea for a NASA space shuttle, a shark for the fishbowl or an extra baby brother might go unanswered.
Here's a sampling from this year's mailbag:
- Joshua: "I have been good sometimes and would like the following gifts for Christmas. A checker board ... and a Hot Wheels garage. I will try to do better at talking to people. Please try to squeeze all my gifts on your sleigh. Say hello to Mrs. Claus and all the elves."
- Caitlyn: "Dear Santa. I would like Smoochie Pooch. Surprises. Merry Christmas."
- Jordan: "Dear Santa Claus. This is what I would like for Christmas. But remember, if it is too much, just take off some stuff. Felicity the American Girl, blue jeans, nail stuff ... tennis shoes. Love, Jordan."
- John, Giselle, Michael and Michelle: "Please bring my parents something."
- Chris: "I, Christopher ... would like A Bug's Life ant hill. Thank you."
- Michelle: "I have a few questions and few corrections. How do you know what I wanted for Christmas if I didn't even send a letter and only told my mom and dad about it? I will leave you snickerdoodles or some other type of old-time cookies like gingersnaps if I don't eat them first. I can't find my stocking right now, but if it doesn't turn out just leave stocking stuff in a bag or something."
- Kevin: "I wonder how the elves are doing? This is what I want for Christmas. I want a Sony PlayStation ... and a heavy coat, some football cards ...."
- Kaylee: "I have been good this year. Could you get me: overhead projector, Christmas Bear beanie, Canyon the beanie, Santa the beanie, Pumpkin the beanie...."
- Hunter: "I want an Indian outfit, shoes with fringe and a drum for Christmas please -- and Legos and a helmet."
- David : "Chistmas lest. Dear Santa Close, How are you. Hope I get a VCR for Chismas. I been good. Love, David."
- Kyle: "This is what I want for Christmas. Twenty-four inch mountain bike, CD player, weight lifting bench, weight set. P.S. Can you bring a doll for my sister?"
-- Tim Carpenter's phone message number is 832-7155. His e-mail address is email@example.com.