Dear Santa: Can you bring me a baby sister?

Little Sister, Faye Wanninger, who came just before Christmas.
Little Sister, Faye Wanninger, who came just before Christmas. The hired hand, Charley, carried her around in a Carnation Milk Box.

December 10, 1943

Dear Santa,

When mama talks to you about Christmas presents, please tell her that all Nancy and I want is a baby sister.

Thank you,

Bobby age 9 and Nancy age 12


Big Brother Bobby with Faye
Big Brother Bobby with Faye

December 14, 2014

Dear Little Sister,

I remember writing that letter.

For good measure, I sat in Santa’s lap and asked for a baby sister. Santa looked out at mama and said he thought he could grant that request. Mama was nine months pregnant. Santa delivered early on the 14th. Then, I knew where baby sisters came from.

Four days later when Nancy and I got home from school, we received you! Mama had shopped for Nancy the day before, and she had planned to shop for me. So, I got my wish. You were my only present!

I had been an unhappy nine year old until your birth. This was during the World War Two era. Germans were targets for many slurs particularly regarding our heritage. I received much ridicule. Your birth gave me something else to think about.

The first time that I saw you, I was allowed to rock you to sleep. I held on to the side of your bassinet until it was soiled with my fingerprints. I was so happy to have another redheaded sister.

We wanted to name you Sylvia, but daddy had difficulty with the pronunciation. I named you Faye (meaning Fairy) after my favorite actress, Alice Faye. Nancy named you Marie ( meaning star of the sea) after her best friend.

When you were six weeks old, we moved to Gardendale, Alabama, to help our grandmother operate, Elkhead, her Tourist Court and restaurant business. Your bassinet was placed next to the jukebox. Soldiers talked to you while they played music. Her hired man, known as Old Charley, weeded the garden and fed the chickens. He carried you in a cardboard Carnation Milk box and sometimes in a round aluminum cooking pot. He loved his “Little Miss.”

Our grandmother was proud that you had what she called “Blue German eyes.” When you were seven months old, she was reaching for an item on a shelf for a customer, had a heart attack and died. Two weeks later, your eyes turned brown.

Good memories linger for a lifetime. Many of my treasured thoughts are those of you. You were our special Christmas gift.

I cannot let your birthday go by without telling you the story one more time.

Love from your big brother,


The infant Faye with her grandmother
The infant Faye with her grandmother

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