By Howard J. Bennett, MD
In a second remarkable discovery in as many months, a janitor at the National Library of Medicine found a collection of letters that famous doctors wrote to St. Nick when they were children.
October 10, 1828
The most wonderful thing happened this year. I’ve decided I want to be a doctor when I grow up. Father says a young girl shouldn’t fill her head with such nonsense, but he’ll change his mind when he sees how determined I am.
Do you think you could send me a big shovel and some dissecting tools so I can get a head start on the other kids at school? If I begin now, I can learn gross anatomy before I have to take the MCATs.
* * *
November 6, 1865
I know I was a little impulsive this year, but I was hoping you’d still be able to send me some presents for Christmas. (You know as well as anybody that it’s hard for a 9-year-old to control his id.)
I’ve been admiring a book I saw in town last month. It’s the collected works of Franz Mesmer. Anna thinks I’ll use it to hypnotize my teacher into giving me all As, but she’s just jealous because mother likes me best.
* * *
December 3, 1788
I fell the other day and accidentally landed with my ear against my parents’ bedroom door. To my surprise, I could almost make out the sounds coming from inside the room. I think the dogs were scuffling with each other because I heard excited moans and grunts that rose and fell like the finale of a grand opera. I was afraid to open the door, lest I be injured if I surprised the mongrels.
I was wondering if you could send me a recorder and a funnel for Christmas? If I attach the funnel to the end of the instrument, I may be able to hear through solid objects and know whether it’s safe to enter a room or not.
* * *
September 14, 1750
Can you see it in your heart to bring me some foxglove plants for Christmas? I discovered them on a recent trip to the country and would like to cultivate some of my own. It’s a beautiful plant and makes an excellent tea.
Grandma says the tea helps her tend her garden. Grandpa says it helps him tend her garden as well, though I’ve never seen him fertilize her flowers.
* * *
October 31, 1590
Please bring me the following toys for Christmas: a dissection kit, a dozen beakers for collecting blood, six sheep, a twenty-four snakes, a ball of heavy-duty string, a scale, lots of drawing pads and a big box of No. 2 pencils.
* * *
November 13, 1839
Have you ever wondered how dirty you get after spending the whole night traveling from one home to the next? With all the milk and cookies you eat, your hands must be a cesspool by the time you get back to the North Pole!
If you want to keep from getting sick (or transferring germs from one house to the next), wash your hands with carbolic acid before getting back in your sleigh.
P.S. I’d love a chemistry set for Christmas.
* * *
October 24, 1869
Since you receive letters from all over the world, I thought it would be an interesting diversion if I sent something different. Here are some clues for the gift I most desire:
It comes from trees.
It’s filled with plenty.
And the gift it gives
I’m still too young
To take its prize.
But ten years hence
The smoke will rise.
Arthur Conan Doyle
* * *
December 1, 1758
I’ve always been fond of animals and would really like a cow for Christmas. It doesn’t need to be a big one. In fact, I’d love having a calf that I could raise on my own. I promise I won’t experiment on her like my brother did when you brought him a sheep last year.
With kindest regards,
© 2012 Howard J. Bennett. All Rights Reserved.
First published in Stitches, The Journal of Medical Humor November 2005.
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please visit Dr. B’s website at http://www.howardjbennett.com