The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Dear Santas

Posted by | December 17, 2012 | Filed under: Opinion

Strangely for a New England farmhouse in the holiday season, the windows in this picture are mostly dark. I'll explain why at the end of this post.

I watched my 5-year-old write his first official letter to Santa this past weekend, with no spelling or penmanship help from dad. It was one of those innocent childhood acts that counteract those times, like Friday in Newtown, CT, when it's not as easy to be a parent of a kindergartener.

I envied my son's belief in a jolly, bearded grandfather who grants the material wishes of hundreds of millions of children in just one night. What a great and fulfilling fantasy. And how practical, to write a letter and get something you really want back.

As an adult, a husband and father, I try to think I have everything I need. When my family asks me what I want for Christmas, I usually scratch my head and shrug. "Socks? One can never have enough socks."

It's my work, I realize, that's the truer outlet for my part in the old Santa game. The Wells Reserve has nearly 2,000 members, each a Santa in his or her own way. I get to write letters to you, and you send gifts. So many of you responded to our recent letter -- thank you for your generous support. We are stronger for it.

Maybe you're wondering how we spend your gifts, though. This month, I asked the staff here what they'd ask Santa for. Here's how some of them responded. I think it's a good way to show you where your money goes when you make a gift to the Laudholm Trust to support the Wells Reserve:

  • "A vacuum pump for the research laboratory ($370)," our system-wide monitoring researcher wished. "And an optical turbidity probe would be a real treat ($1,300)." (Sounds neat. Maybe I'll get one for my wife too...)
  • "A souped-up golf cart for transporting equipment and supplies down the trails during education sessions ($8,500)... but only if it's electric," exclaimed our Education Director. "A digital camera ($500) and an iPad too ($349). And replacement binoculars ($25 a pair) for our Discovery Backpacks. And a new storage rack ($150) for our kayaks." (With that list, I'm signing my boys up for her Summer 2013 programs tomorrow!)
  • "If wishes were fishes the sea would be full," our Vulcanesque Communications Director reminded me. "Fishes can be wishes -- just ask a Portland codboat captain," I should have replied. He did admit we need a laptop ($1,100) for our new podium in the Mather Auditorium. (Fish on.)
  • The Reserve Director wants a fresh coat of paint on the water tower ($300), a commercial-grade riding mower ($11,000), and a new truck ($25,000). Dollar for dollar, those might be the most practical gifts we could get. (Not sure they'd fit in a sleigh, though.)

Aside from that annual request for socks, I'm usually less practical.

But here's something I just thought of, for this old place: LED holiday candles for our windows.

Heading home every night this month, I always took one last look at our farmhouse offices each evening, beautifully lit with a bright white candle in each window. The place sat like a jewel box, twinkling in the wind against a backdrop of stars.

But then we realized that those incandescent bulb candles, so pretty to look at, are also fire hazards. (Fortunately, we realized this before any conflagrations.) Back into the closet went the candles.

Now our windows are dark. Each night, the house sits forlorn.

But next year, if Santa reads this and responds in-kind, maybe we'll have illuminated windows again up here on the hill. Battery-powered, cold LEDs, but light nonetheless, shining out in the bitter night.

Merry Christmas, and happy new year, everyone. From our family to yours, best wishes this holiday season, and thank you for your support.

 

If you're curious about other ways your support helps, here's a longer list, arranged exponentially:

Download 8 Levels of Giving: 25 by Powers of 10

Levels of Giving chart shows how far donations go

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