This christmas present isn’t a tie, or new socks, or a cotton hawaiian shirt. I’m sure Mom will get you those. No mix CDs, mediocre artwork, or strange foods that I totalled the kitchen making. I wish I could get you some shiny new plaything, but those are more than a babysitter’s salary will afford, and besides, you get those for yourself (how are you enjoying your new iPhone 4s?). Instead, this is a gift that, I hope, you’ll appreciate more, a gift only I can give: my gratitude.
So this is a letter to the jolly, white-bearded man with a round belly in my life. You make the magic of Christmas happen, with the theatrical way in which you give presents. You taught me how to build a warm fire (all santas know something about fireplaces), and be it the Daily Show or a comic clipped from the New Yorker, you’ve introduced me to the funniest things in my life.
You’ve taught me to appreciate music, fine cinema (sometimes), and good television production. You shuttle me back and fourth from WMAR on the weekends, and you’re the only family member with whom I can discuss the standby cue for the pre-taped on-set interview and the annoyance of typos in lower third chyrons. You do more than the job of a Dad, not only telling me, “good job, sweetie,” but also describing how I can better my performance by making my writing more conversational, reading the prompter more carefully, and for God’s sake– ironing my shirt. Where as my friends’ dads cheer them on at lacrosse tournaments, I can feel you cheering for me as I write, record, and tape my package, as I work my way towards being a better writer, producer, and on-camera talent. And I know you’ll keep cheering, when I get my first real job in the business, when I move station to station, and every new thing I do. I can see you getting up to watch me on the five AM news, and staying up to see me at eleven PM. You’re my biggest, and most loyal fan.
And when times get tough, when I need you to be there for me, to watch over me, to take care of me, you’re there too. I don’t always have to be the flawless television personality with you. You’re there to pull me out of danger, to save me from everything, be it a bad teacher or a bad neighborhood. You give great hugs too.
I don’t have anything nice to give you, just this letter, telling you things I should have been telling you all along. Thanks for being there, Dad, the magical, invincible, special man you are, my Saint Nick. Santa Claus doesn’t live on the north pole, he lives right here, in Baltimore. On this, my sixteenth Christmas, I’ve figured out that Santa doesn’t come down chimneys, or have a sleigh drawn by eight reindeer and rudolph, but instead, his reindeer is a fat gray cat named Jasper, and he doesn’t have to come down the chimney– he lives with us, among us, Dad. Thanks for everything you do for me.