Dear Sean


My mom read me what you wrote about Santa last week and I’m not sure about him. Just being real. ‘Cause if people with the fake beards go play him at the stores then that means he’s not real, so he’s not, right? My mom told me to write you about it.

My parents are divorced this year. My dad has a beard too. My mom just bought me a fruitcake at Walmart and it’s yummy. I never had fruitcake till she got it, and I’m ready for Christmas this year! Sometimes I get sad but I really like your stories.

Please write back,


I agree with you wholeheartedly on the fruitcake. It’s delicious. But—wait a second—it’s too early for Christmas!

Still, because of this pandemic I think almost everyone is ready for a little “Fa-la-la-a-la” right now. So I totally get it.

You’re lucky to be spending the holidays in lovely Virginia. And even though Christmastime is a ways off, I wish I were spending it there, too.

Once, I spent the holidays in that general region when I was younger than you, which is why your letter hit home with me. I’ll never forget it. We were temporarily staying with my aunt in a tiny fleck-on-the-map town in North Carolina.

It was a tough year. My mother was thinking of leaving my father, we were there sorting out our lives. There were heavy feelings in the air. It majorly stunk.

But anyway, my aunt’s house was the berries. I loved it. I spent most of my time ice skating on her kitchen linoleum floor, wearing socks. I was a good kitchen-skater. I could do all the things real skaters did. Triple Axels, Lutzes, quadruple inverted double underpants-splitters, etc.

The only problem was, the kitchen had a floor heater that looked like a throwback to the Revolutionary War. It was old and rusty and my uncle said it ate children sometimes.

One night when nobody was paying attention, I snuck into the kitchen and started skating around. I was about to perform my signature twirling move when I lost my footing and fell. My calf muscle snagged on the heater’s jagged metal, and the floor immediately turned crimson.

Well, the first thing you need to know about me is that I dislike hospitals with a purple-hearted passion. Because no matter the reason for your visit, they always give you a booster shot. Usually right in the you-know-what, too.

So I was unhappy when the doctor brandished a needle about the size of a billiard cue and turned me over onto my stomach. I started gyrating like a caught fish, flopping for freedom, howling.

Finally, the doc delivered an ultimatum: “We can do this the easy way or the hard way, son. Choice is yours.”

Ask your mother what an “ultimatum” is. It’s the pits.

I chose the Hard Way. Thus, the room suddenly filled with troops of nurses who held me down. Each nurse took a limb. And one old gal plopped her whole body on top of me so we were face to face, whereupon she said in a voice completely devoid of humor, “Well, aren’t you a little heathen?”

That’s the kind of service you got at public hospitals back then.

The shot hurt, although I eventually calmed down and went to sleep. But here’s where my story gets good.

Just before I was discharged, my nurse asked if I was accepting visitors. At first, I thought this was odd. I mean, hey, I was just a kid. Who’d want to visit a kid? But in a few moments I heard jingling bells and a man in a red suit entered my room.

It was him. He was a jolly old elf. He had a broad face and a little round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowlful of Duke’s mayo.

The big guy sat beside me and said: “Does the good little boy want some candy? Hold your hand out, little boy!”

I held out my hand and he gave me Raisinettes. I hate Raisinettes.

But we actually became pretty good friends. Soon he was doing magic tricks, singing songs, and everything. Then he asked what I wanted for Christmas. I decided this guy was the real deal, so I leveled with him.

I told him that I wanted to see my father again. Then I told him that I was pretty worried about where our family life was heading. In fact, I told him that I was not a big fan of Life at that moment.

There was sympathy in his eyes, I could see this even at my young age. The Big Guy placed a hand on my head and messed up my hair. His response was sincere:

“Santa will see what he can do, son.”

Then he gave me more Raisinettes. And I am choking back vomit just thinking about those little nasty brown pellets.

The following days were filled with snow, lots of TV, and chicken soup. And on one snow-filled Carolina evening, I saw a lanky redheaded man loping up my aunt’s white lawn, duffle bag over his shoulder. It was my father. I don’t recall ever being so happy. I’ve been Santa’s dedicated servant ever since.

So I cannot shed any more light on the Santa issue, in fact I’m not used to talking about him this early in November.

But what I do know is that the mystery of love and life is exactly that. A mystery. If we understood it all, there would be no magic left in this world. The one thing I can tell you for certain, however, is this:

You should keep checking your mailbox this week. Because I told Santa how much you like fruitcake.


  1. Barbara - November 9, 2020 12:12 pm

    Sean, you are THE BEST storyteller. Your gift to respond to a child by painting hilarious scenes pulled out of your own life experience is nothing but magical. And the way you provide hope even in heartache is a blessing . . . to us all. God bless.

  2. Robert M Brenner - November 9, 2020 12:34 pm

    You just answered a million little prayers Sean🙏.

  3. Lisa Wilcox - November 9, 2020 1:40 pm

    I love reading your columns. Thanks for sharing the hard stuff like about your dad, along with the funny stuff that makes me grin, chuckle, and/or just plain sputter and guffaw ‘til whatever beverage I was drinking comes out my nose.

  4. Margaret - November 9, 2020 1:55 pm

    I hope and pray that what I think is going to happen happens! What a lucky little boy! …and how blessed are we to get to read your column every day!!

  5. Pecos Kate - November 9, 2020 2:03 pm

    Ahhhhhh. A very lucky guy in Virginia will soon be enjoying the best fruitcake known to mankind. And it will make his life seem more worthwhile and enjoyable!

    Santa’s helpers are so amazing.

  6. John - November 9, 2020 2:28 pm

    Sean, I was just talking with a friend over coffee about the humanity of some public people — or the lack of humanity. And I think that word describes you best. You exude the best of humanity in everything you write: caring, humor, love, all of it. Thank you for being such a humane person and sharing with us.

  7. Pecos Kate - November 9, 2020 2:38 pm

    CORRECTION: Santa AND his helpers are all very amazing!!

  8. Anna - November 9, 2020 3:26 pm

    Thank you for sending such encouragement through your stories and descriptions of your encounters with people. I appreciate that while we are living in such a time that seems uncertain and would cause a person to spiral downward, you find ways to remind us that life is filled with so much more than the obvious. Thank you for inspiring us to do better for those around us and to be on the look out for the opportunity to shed light in areas that need it! May you be blessed a million times more than you bless all of your readers!

  9. Susan Parker - November 9, 2020 3:34 pm

    Bless your heart, Sean! Those who keep hope alive are rare, and so needed!

  10. Chasity Davis Ritter - November 9, 2020 3:49 pm

    I believe Santa is real. I know he has tons and tons of helpers though and yes there are straight up fakes as well out there. He has to have helpers because the world is an extremely big place full of kids who need him as well as even some adults who still believe and need him too. The adults and children who stop believing get underwear for Christmas it’s a known fact. But yes Santa can’t be every where it’s not physically possible. He HAS to have helpers. BUT…. if just once in your life you have the chance to have an actual encounter with the real thing (even in helper form). You will Always believe too and just like they say about Spider-Man that anyone can wear the mask… I believe anyone can wear the beard too. Anyone has the ability to make Santa real to someone else. Anyone can wear the beard. Merry Christmas Sean… this year it’s not to early to believe.

  11. Glenda Hinkle - November 9, 2020 4:02 pm

    Sean, I’m sitting here blubbering as we old 74 year old grandmas do sometimes after reading your post. My response to this child is this: Each Christmas around midnight (just as my brother and I had gone to sleep and were comatose), my Daddy would wake us up telling us Santa had just been to visit us. We staggered into the living room when Daddy opened the front door and urged us to “Hurry Up and come see him leaving on his sleigh”……We looked and looked in the sky but, alas, never saw him. Daddy would always say, “well, maybe next year you will get to see him”……then we turned to see presents under the tree and stayed up all night with our newly delivered toys………I sincerely hope this child gets to see Santa someday but even if he or she never actually “sees” him, he or she will always remember that wonderful feeling each Christmas knowing that Santa REALLY was there and delivered wonderful memories. And, I hope Santa ALWAYS brings fruitcake…….it’s just not Christmas without it!!

  12. Kristi - November 9, 2020 4:20 pm

  13. Debra Sanders - November 9, 2020 4:23 pm

    Sean, That is the sweetest story! Thank you for sharing.

  14. Linda Moon - November 9, 2020 5:34 pm

    My Aunt Kat’s house was the berries. She cooked like Jamie Dietrich. I, unfortunately, do not cook like either of them. Why, I even choke when just thinking about ordinary raisins or anything that contains them! ALMOST-NINE’s Mom gave him good advice: write Sean Dietrich. He’s the berries, too. It’s like Christmas every day when I check my inbox for flavorful things he tells his readers!

  15. Sheila Herb - November 10, 2020 1:47 am

    Thank you!

  16. Melanie - November 10, 2020 3:13 am

    Fruitcake lovers of the world unite! 👏🏻✌🏻✊🏻👋🏻👍🏻😁

  17. Pat - November 10, 2020 3:24 am

    Wonderful story!

  18. Jenny Carter - November 10, 2020 3:02 pm

    Your stories make my day! Keep on doing what you do 🙂


Leave a Comment