It was the year 1945 and I was the lighthouse keeper’s daughter at Cuttyhunk Island Lighthouse, where my father kept the light located at the western end of the island.
My mother had read a story that the Flying Santa, Edward Rowe Snow, would be flying that Christmas, dropping presents to the families at the lights. In October, she wrote him telling of our family and that I was a little five-year-old girl who would really love to get a doll from the Flying Santa.
From October to December, every time I saw an airplane, I wondered if it was the Flying Santa. I still remember that very special day. All the built up excitement has been etched in my mind forever.
When the plane came over and circled we were ready. We had a dory ready for the ocean; and a second one for the pond (in case the bombardier was “off target” and we would have to fish the packages out of the water). Three packages fell.
One did make the pond and dad had to row out and get it. No problem, though; Santa had the packages heavily wrapped.
Two packages made the ground — one hit a huge boulder that was part of the Cuttyhunk Island landscape. We all rushed to the house with excitement to open our packages. Mr. Snow always included wonderful things in his packages, including books, magazines, candy, little odds and ends and always one of his new books. However, I knew that this year in one of those packages would be my brand new doll. After all, he did promise mother.
There it was, in the last package.
Unfortunately, this was the package that hit the boulder and my doll was smashed into pieces. I could not believe it. My doll, that I had waited so long for, the one Santa had promised me, was broken.
I was inconsolable, and as mother put it in the next letter she sent to the Flying Santa, I cried myself to sleep that night. Well, my father patched up the doll as best he could (after all, daddy being a lighthouse keeper, he could fix anything. This became my play-sick doll, complete with Band-Aids . . . Still, I was so disappointed.
But that year, the disappointment over the doll was not anywhere near as bad as finding out our lighthouse had been condemned and would be torn down. My family ended up being the last family to live there.
We were transferred to West Chop Lighthouse the following year.
Flying Santa had received the letter explaining of this little girl’s broken heart. He could not bear to have this girl so broken hearted. So the next Christmas, he chartered a helicopter and landed on Martha’s Vineyard to pay a personal visit to me.
He landed at the Gay Head Lifesaving Station and there, like a fairy tale, I had Santa Claus hand me a doll to replace the broken one. Nearly everyone was in tears. I had a big hug for this hero of mine.
I’m 60 now. In all my life, that was a pinnacle event. Mr. Snow knew this would make me happy, and he did it because he was a big-hearted man and knew the real meaning of reaching out to people.
Mr. Snow continued to deliver many more Christmas packages to our family. Upon my father’s retirement, we continued to stay in contact with the Snow family. After Mr. Snow’s death, I kept in touch with Mrs. Snow, and continued to write his daughter Dolly. They will continue to be a part of me because of those special times Mr. Snow delivered love from an airplane.
Seamond Ponsart Roberts is the author of Everyday Heroes, The True Story of a Lighthouse Family published in 2013. This essay was first published in the Gazette in 2003.