CONYERS - As Christmas approaches, girls and boys diligently put pen and pencil to paper to pour out their hearts' desires in the hope that Santa Claus will take notice of their good behavior and reward them with toys, clothes and all manner of holiday goodies.
Every year, each of these letters seems to miraculously find its way into the hands of the jolly old elf himself, so that he can make his list and check it twice.
And to a lucky few mortals falls the task of acting as Santa's postman, ferrying along these envelopes filled with eager requests. For the last 30 years, Conyers resident Warren Maloy has been fortunate enough to qualify for the job.
Maloy sets out a white mailbox marked "Santa's Mail" in front of his Woodland Road home each year where children from all around have been dropping off their letters to Santa.
Maloy said he gets about 50 letters a year from children, and a few adults, writing letters to ask Santa to bring them the things they want for Christmas.
"People enjoy it, and I enjoy doing it," he said. "If I can make a child happy, that's worth the whole Christmas to me."
The letters run the gamut. One little girl writes that she and her sister have been good this year and have done their school work. "All we want for Christmas..." the letter says, followed by a wish list of dolls, toy ponies, a pink jacket with white fur and "a big car, so I can drive."
Maloy said he sees a lot of people who come by to look at his lights in his yard. The mailbox is just part of an elaborate Christmas light display Maloy puts out each year. The mailbox looks almost out of place with the other decoration that include lighted palm trees, reindeer, inflatable snowmen and an animatronic Santa Claus who sings Christmas carols.
Maloy, a retired General Motors assembly line worker, said he also receives several letters written by Hispanic children. He recalled one Hispanic couple who brought their daughter to his door earlier this month.
"I couldn't understand anything momma and daddy was saying, but the girl said 'Santa Claus! Is he going to bring me presents?'" Maloy said. "I asked her if she dropped her letter in the mailbox and she said yes. I told her 'well, he might not be able to bring everything, but he bring what he can.'"
Maloy said people in the neighborhood have come to expect his decorations and the mailbox every year. One year he didn't put out lights, and after Christmas a young boy from the neighborhood approached him and gave him a nickel.
"He told me to take his money and buy some lights to put up next year," Maloy said. "I took that boy's nickel and went out and bought $110 in lights."
Jay Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.