Letter to Santa from a Fort McMurray Firefighter
Okay dude, considering what we’ve been through here in Fort McMurray, you’d better be loading up that sleigh extra heavy this year. Ain’t no naughty I’ve done in 2016 that can outweigh the ‘nice’. (See May 3rd to oh, some time around June for reference). Not to sound too forward, but you know that Lamborghini Veneno I’ve been patiently asking for, for like, SIX years...?! I don’t want to discredit your organizational skills up there at the North Pole, I’m sure the head elf has just been misfiling my list and someone else keeps getting all my loot... You’re welcome Justin Beiber. I know us Canadian heart-throbs all look alike Santa, but honestly….
It seems that the last few years you may have skipped my block—I get it, I deserve that. But for the record, whoever invented that mistletoe tradition is to blame—not me! Regardless, I think it’s pretty fair to say my place should be close to first on your Google maps this year.
So, when you have Dasher, Dancer and Prancer all hooked up, my new address is in Parsons Creek. I don’t have a chimney anymore, but I’ll leave the door open. Waiting for you will be a healthy donation of cookies and an ice cold beer. I’m sure you’re lactose resistant or something like that anyways the way the world is going.
I’m working day shift this 25th of December, so if you just wanted to swing by the fire-hall, that’d be cool too. I don’t know if the fire truck has anything on a flying sleigh, but if you want, I could probably swing it to let you sit in the driver’s seat. Take your next Facebook profile pic. Girls will LOVE it.
I can imagine you have an entire sleigh-load of goodies for the fellas here anyways. I think that unlike most years, a lot of them have made the ‘Nice’ list for what they were able to pull off in May. You can empty the sleigh on the roof of Station 5 and head back to the North Pole to re-load for the rest of the world. Hahaha, jokes!
Truthfully Nick, pour some nog and let’s chat. Man to legend. I’m a little nervous that Christmas will be different this year. My home is gone. The fireplace you came down for 20 years to hook up us Hoffman boys with the latest LEGO set isn’t there anymore. The forest I used to trudge through with the whole family—our dog Shadow included--to cut down a Tannenbaum--well, I’m sure you watch the news up there at the North Pole…. I’m nervous about not getting that Christmas ‘feel.’ That gooey cinnamon-laced feeling that invades the air around early December.
I remember growing up in Fort McMurray; the Santa Clause parade down Franklin Avenue to welcome you to town. Mom would always pack a thermos of hot chocolate to keep us boys warm. That stuff is liquid batteries for a five-year-old haha!
I remember getting a tree permit with pops, loading up the whole family into the minivan, throwing in a cassette tape of carols and driving up the highway towards the YMM airport to plow into the bush and cut down a tree. I have memories of reluctantly pausing the Grinch cartoon to take Shadow out for a walk in the sub-zero McMurray evening. Or shaking beautifully wrapped presents trying to guess what’s inside while dad built a cozy fire in the fireplace. Do you remember the massive snowfalls back in the day? They made huge work for us boys clearing the driveway, but always brought the epic GT races down hospital hill, snow forts and thunderously quiet walks through the Beacon Hill forest.
The places where all of those nostalgic memories took place has been wiped from the local topography. It’s brutal Nick. It’s like taking a huge bite out of what Christmas has always been for me.
Santa, I don’t want to get all mushy on you here, but I can’t help but want to put my faith into the message of all those favorite Holiday movies we love. I hope that McMurryites will all pull a Kevin McCallister and decorate the house even if the family is out of town, or if people are in a rental place this year. That even without all the FlooFloogers and Electrocardiofluxes and Roast Beast, and all the comforts of familiarity, that Christmas will still come in Whoville all the same. Without tags, without packages, boxes, and bags.
There’s going to be some tough realities up here this year Nicholas. Fewer boxes under trees, smaller spreads on the turkey table as families spend money on rebuilding. I know you probably get sick of the vague requests for ‘peace on earth,’ rolling your eyes as if you can do anything about that. But what I want for the residents of Fort McMurray this year is that the Holiday spirit will be found in all the right places. Extra helpings of side-busting jokes with family to make up for lighter wallets. The deep, fresh feeling that charity gives in abundance with all those who are willing or able. That kids will be held closer, and parents will find joy in building up that future nostalgia only memories can give instead of stressing over providing things that the batteries will die in.
Also, is there a way you can stop Tim Allen from doing any more ‘Santa Clause’ sequels?
It’s almost cliché now to say that the holidays aren’t about things, we hear it so much we brush it off. But for those who lost everything, I know those words aren’t as easy to hear without feeling the empty awkwardness of restarting. They’re gonna miss all their familiar ‘stuff.’ Their first tree as a married couple. The decorations they collected over the years. So much ‘feel’ from those holidays of old, stuck in attic boxes and lost to the May wildfire.
If you have some sort of magic, holiday spirit filled gravy boat, those are the people I’m asking you to be a little more generous with this year. Not just the materially poor, but the newly scared, displaced and hurting residents who need all the spirit-filling goodness this season can provide. Give them the people they need to help them smile. A melting cinnamon-goo holiday mush smile.
Don’t get me wrong man, this community still blows me away. The tenacity would make your old pal Frosty melt. But I want every single individual here to FEEL the strength of our community this year. People being with people. Doing what counts.
So, if you need to change your maps, Beacon Hill, Wood Buffalo, Abasand, and Waterways have substantially shrunk… But that extra strong glow lighting up the night sky, pulsing from the citizens of this small town, just left of the Northern Lights. That’s us. We’re still here. And our hearts grew three sizes this year. Love, Anthony P.S. – I won’t tell Mrs. Clause if you stop here for that beer!