Back in 2003 I was a mature age student studying Software Engineering and had just completed my third year.
Times were tough and the finances were really bad. This is the letter that I wrote to my 7 year old son for Christmas. I’ve kept it as a reminder to me of that moment in my life.
My elves have told me how good you have been this year. You have been really well behaved for Mum and Dad, and you have tried hard at school and got a good report.
This year, things have been very busy in the North Pole. We had three of our toy making machines break down and the elves couldn’t fix them in time for Christmas. This has never happened before, and I am extremely embarrassed. You couldn’t imagine how red my cheeks are!
Because my machines broke, I have had to limit the amount of presents I could bring tonight. Unfortunately all I can give you this year is this letter. But I will do something special for your family. I will help your Dad find a job for next year!
Keep saying your prayers and trying hard at school. Bobo, one of my favourite elves, told me you have started reading Harry Potter. That is one of my favourite books.
I have you on a special list for next year, so you will get double the Christmas presents to make up for this year! The machines will be all fixed by then, all you have to do is make sure you are as good as you were this year.
Ho ho ho,
That letter brings back a ton of memories. We were living in possibly the worst house in our suburb as it had the cheapest possible rent and we were able to keep Zac in the same school – which we felt was really important. But we hated that house. It had rats – lots of them, and big ones too. We tried to catch them but they’d steal the food from the traps without being caught. They also ate parts of our furniture. Our lounge suite which was half vinyl half material had been chewed through at the front where the rats would get into the lounge and make a nest of some kind. We’d often see them run across in front of us as we ate or watched TV. There were no creature comforts – it was stinking hot in summer and freezing in winter. There was no yard. If we had friends over (which was rare because it was a shocking house) we’d socialise on our driveway out the front. True Bogans we were.
Only 3 years before we had saved enough money for a deposit on our first home when I decided I really wanted to go to university and try to develop my career. My wife willingly supported the new direction and we committed to survive off our savings and the small amount of contract work we could pick up during that time. It was tough, and the first year was full of adjustments. Going without was something we were used to, but at times it was bordering on ridiculous. There were a lot of arguments too. Why did you buy that? Did we really need that $3 block of chocolate?
The letter above was written at the end of my third year of Uni. By that time our savings was long gone and we had over $6k owing on our credit card which was now maxed out and we had no income to pay it off. My wife and I struggled with the whole concept of Christmas. There were expectations from family and friends and the most important person in both of our lives was going to miss out on presents – at an age when Santa was still very real. It was shit. There’s no other way to describe it. When I re-read that letter I feel humbled, angry and embarrassed. I don’t know if that’s reasonable but it still really upsets me. The logical me says ‘it was only temporary – he’d understand when he got older’. Nevertheless it still sucked.
We knew in 2002 that Zac was still in the ‘Father Christmas is real’ phase – so much so we really spoiled him that year as best we could. 2003 was going to be a massive let down in our minds. How could a seven year old understand?
Christmas morning we woke up and Zac was excited as you’d expect. There was no tree, no presents, nothing but a single envelope on the coffee table addressed to ‘ZAC’. Jayne and I stood there – quite pathetically as Zac opened the letter and read it.
“Umm, Santa isn’t even real” he declared.
Jayne and I continued to give him a hug and explain our predicament. He understood all too well – with the kind of maturity you’d expect from someone 30 years older. He could see how we’d been living and he wasn’t phased at all. Jayne and I were amazed and it was a huge relief.