Warm as North Pole, a form letter to Santa Mail: Not with greed but with precision, children ask the big guy to fill in the blanks in their toy chests.


Yes, Virginia, there are Santa form letters.

With all the charm of a 1040 form, Santa form letters are hot in this year's X-mas files. By signing on the dotted line, said boy/girl agrees to "have snacks ready" for Santa and attests to having been nice to brother/sister.

From another Baltimore child, another form letter:

Please Print Your Name and Address:

Pet's Name:

Friends' Names:

My Letter to Santa:

(You May Use the Back.)

"I've never gotten form letters before," Pat Mank says. "Unbelievable."

Each year, we parachute into Pat Mank's office at the U.S. Postal Service in downtown Baltimore. Pat is one overworked but cheerful Santa's helper. Each year, she culls "needy" and "cute" letters for inspection and answering. Now she has a "form letters" pile.

But it's that "needy" stack that sticks with her:

Dear Mrs. Santa,

My name is Annie. I am a very sick single parent. I am a HIV positive and a diabetic. My husband left me and my five children. We don't have any food, toys or clothes for Christmas. Please Mrs. Santa help me and my children.

For every computer- or crayon-generated letter from a child, there's a letter written in the obvious penmanship of an adult. The letters come from single mothers, mainly. People with no phones -- just shaky, forwarding addresses.

People such as Helen from Baltimore: I have MS -- I'm in a wheelchair because of it. I would be so-so happy if you could help. P.S. I have always been a big kid at heart. Tia, a student and mother of two, asks for anything. Peggy writes from Baltimore: It's not my children's fault that I lost my job.

Letters come from kids trying to stay kids. La-Kieshia says she knows it's hard to imagine a 13-year-old believing in Santa. It's because of my mother I believe. La-Kieshia, with the beautiful name, wants two things: 1. Computer monitor to help with schoolwork. 2. Size 28 coat for her mother.

One boy is so rattled he didn't list any presents.

Dear Santa,

I'm so mad! I can't stand it are you real or fake please please I can't stand it I'm about to go crazy. The rest of his letter is consistently frantic and unpunctuated. P.S. I'm gonna try to stay up so please still come if you don't everyone will hate me.

An evergreen feature of Santa letters is the postscript. Kids cannot pass up adding a P.S. to Santa. Here are other samples of yuletide afterthoughts:

P.S. Do you have your tree up?

P.S. Give my dog a bath (JOKE).

P.S. Karen my sister has been bad this year. Do not send her any presents.

P.S. You don't half to give me all of these toys. Just give me the toys I deserve.

Bribes remain a favored tactic. Envelopes are stuffed with quarters, flattering renderings of Santa, and candy such as rolls of Smarties and petrified lollipops. Brittney, who decked her envelope with dime-store jewels, piled it on good: Santa Claus is the best friend I have and he's the best for me. And can I have a Barbie mini-van?

At least she didn't send a form letter. Besides the fill-in-the-blankety blanks, something else is different about this year's letters. Self-restraint is in. No letters this year have rivaled the 82-item wish list sent last year. That boy's record is safe -- for now.

Brevity, with a splash of mystery, is also a trend.

Dear Santa,

I might see you on Christmas night.

Love, Kelly.

Finally, one Baltimore child -- he didn't leave his name -- intended to send Santa his Christmas list. The envelope was accurately addressed to the North Pole, Arctic Circle. But the boy must have grabbed any ol' piece of paper from the kitchen.

Santa will soon learn that the boy's mother bought baskets, ribbons, berries from Wal-Mart. The list also says Mom has an appointment Thur, Dec. 19th, with OBGYN.

Maybe Santa can remind her.

To answer Santa's letters, call 347-4243, the Main Post Office, 900 E. Fayette St.

Pub Date: 12/18/96

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