The early lists took some deciphering. My wife and I would puzzle over items such as a "borbe dall" (Barbie) and a "peek beg will" (pink Big Wheel).
A list was considered more effective than writing to Santa directly, in large part because the demands almost always changed before the letter arrived at the North Pole.
If a line item on the list changed from a Light Bright to a She-Ra: Princess of Power costume at the last minute, how could we get word to Santa in time?
It was easier just to keep a running list. The logic was impeccable. If Santa knew when kids were asleep and he saw them when they were being bad, he could certainly monitor an updated list taped to a door.
Since the lists changed minute by minute in the final hours, they served to let my wife know which stores we had to visit at 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
We also encouraged our daughters to be specific. It wasn't enough to write down "a bike." Santa needed to know the color, size, manufacturer and even the stock number of the item. It was right there in the ad or catalog. Write it down.
Over the years, the lists grew in size. Our daughters became smart enough to know that Santa wouldn't bring them everything, but they understood that the longer the list the greater the possibility of getting more.
Our oldest daughter wrote the first list in 1980. In barely legible green crayon, it contained four items including "plido" and an "ez bek uvn." That was the year we learned to read the list carefully. Play-doh cooked in an Easy-Bake Oven smells horrible.
By the time our girls reached their teenage years, the lists had grown from one-page letters scrawled by illiterate kidnappers to carefully typed college term papers with footnotes.
"No. 28 • Red 1993 Chevrolet Camaro with black leather interior."
"No. 29 • Back Street Boys. All of them."
Our grandchildren have carried on the list tradition, only they email or text them to us. Sometimes we get a dozen updates in a single day. It's the only way a kid can be sure to get what he or she wants for Christmas.
"I don't want a soward (sword?) now I want a rock kit (rocket) and a scotter (scooter). If satan (Santa) dsnt bring thim will u?"
Today, there are no lists posted on our hall closet door. The girls have grown up and only want gift cards to their favorite stores.
One way of being sure to get just what you want for Christmas is to go get it yourself.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.