At the kitchen table, tongues hanging out of mouths in fierce concentration, scribbling on pieces of A4 paper with coloured pencils. The first line in the letter was always the same — “Dear Santa, Thank you for last year’s presents. This year can I have....” (manners first, dear) but the contents varied wildly.
One year I basically asked for the entire Smyths catalogue (Mom: That’s nice, Louise! Now pick out three things. ‘You little brat’ went unspoken.), the next I asked for a magic wand that never ran out of wishes (three wishes are for idiots, Aladdin), and a pet squirrel, (If he could talk that would be a bonus, but I didn’t want to be greedy.). I don’t remember my parents ever telling me that giving unlimited powers to a seven-year-old was a terrible idea or that a feral squirrel would probably murder me in my sleep, but by the end of November I had inevitably changed my mind and asked for a Hollywood Hair Barbie and the latest Marita Conlon-McKenna novel. I kept writing letters to Santa until I was well into my teens, prompting an awkward conversation with my mother when I was about 14.
Her: We need to talk about Santa.
Me: Yes, we do. I would like a pashmina and a pair of hideously unflattering Road jeans. Pass it on to the big man, will you?
Her: Louise, you —
Me: LALALA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU.
I subscribe to the opinion of Francis Pharcellus Church, the newsman who wrote that famous response to a letter from an eight-year-old girl in 1897 asking if Santa Claus was real. “Yes, Virginia,” he wrote, “there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist... A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”
I appreciate you making my childhood so lovely, Santa, but I’m all grown up now and could do with a bit of festive cheer after a hectic 2017. So with that in mind, here are a few things I would like for Christmas this year. (If any readers want to help, please send any and all gifts care of the Irish Examiner head office.)
- An iPhone whose battery lasts longer than 35 seconds when unplugged. I may as well be carrying a landline around.
- For hairdressers to stop asking suspiciously if I use conditioner, “have you even heard of it, love?” Listen, I’ve come here to relax while you make my head look presentable, not to be shamed for my forest-fire dry hair.
- The Prada beaded angora cardigan that is the same price as a used car.
- Bodily autonomy would be FANTASTIC. 2018 is going to be a big year for the Repeal movement and we need every last vote we can get. Being pro-choice means that you believe that women have the right to make decisions regarding their own bodies and reproductive health. It’s that simple.
- I would like to stop finding emotionally unavailable men completely irresistible. Repeat after me — You. Can. Not. Change. Him.
- A Louis Vuitton passport case embroidered with my initials so I can post obnoxious photos at Instagram with the airplane emoji. #TravelPorn #AtTheAirport
- I want the sexual predator storm of 2017 to bring about real, systemic change across all industries. We need to be careful not to be lulled into a false sense of security by the public reckoning of a few individuals. Everyone deserves to move through their day safely and without fear of harassment, and we have a lot of work to do to ensure that becomes a reality.
- I would like someone to send me to Ballyfin for the weekend. Literally anyone, I don’t care who you are.
- A subscription to Psychologies. I love this magazine unironically. I see it as my gateway to a fully actualised, high-vibrational existence.
- Following on from that, I would like Oprah to be my new best friend. I hear she gives guests a Panini press when they leave her house! My current friends only give a large sigh of relief when I take my leave, which is rude and hurts my feelings.
- I would like the trend for Michael Kors handbags and French manicures to die a slow and painful death. And world peace would be nice too, Santa, but it’s important we keep our priorities straight.
- A Kinsale Leather handbag.
- An original Nan Goldin photograph.
- A dating app that doesn’t make me a) lose the will to live and b) want to join a convent.
- People to stop asking when I’m going to move out of my parents’ house. If they could stop laughing when I say ‘never’, that would be an extra bonus.
- For everyone to finally admit that Fairytale of New York is the Worst Song in the World™
- Ginger emojis. My people have waited long enough.
I think that’s about it! Wishing you and yours a very merry and peaceful Christmas.
I appreciate you making my childhood so lovely, Santa, but I’m all grown up now and could do with a bit of festive cheer after a hectic 2017...
Jessie Burton’s compelling and atmospheric novel The Miniaturist was one of the biggest success stories of 2014, and the early reviews of the television adaptation are equally impressive. This is the one programme you can’t afford to miss this Christmas. The first episode airs on BBC1 at 9pm on December 26, the second, the evening after.
I finished a proof copy of The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert this week. It’s dark, beautifully written, and I have a sneaking suspicion it’s going to be one of the most talked-about novels for young adults next year. Out February 2018.