Brought to you direct from cribside, in living color, Pop is back.

It was a wonderful two weeks at home with a wonderful baby daughter named Emily--not to mention a wife named Jane whose patience and stamina amaze me daily.

But by definition, leaves of absence end. So whether Emily has taught me to be a father or not (she has made progress, anyway), I am back at the keyboard, psyched up for both a beginning (of 1982) and a finale (of what is so far a startlingly successful Children's Hospital campaign).

Special thanks go to Rob Graettinger for filling in so ably in my absence. Thanks, too, to Charlise Lyles. Without her dedicated behind-the-scenes help, this Good Ship Charity would have sunk.

But rather than merely floating, our drive for Children's Hospital seems about to soar into orbit. Over the early days of this week, we steamed past last year's final total so lustily that you would think there wasn't a recession going on out there. We are now thinking that this year's final total may approach $300,000--an all-time high and a bottom line to make anyone proud.

But, of course, we are living through a recession. As a result, Rob, Charlise and I know how much tougher it is this year to dig down for money to make a donation. But the need is greater than it has ever been. And the hospital remains the one institution in our community whose services cut across every barrier--race, sex, creed, geography and ability to pay.

We hope you will give, and give generously. Our drive will continue for nine more days.

Jay Wenzel of Arlington does arithmetic my kind of way.

He writes to say he remembers his 1948 tonsillectomy at Children's. "I'll never forget how kind and warm the staff was," Jay says. "It's great to read your column and know they handle youngsters the same way now."

Still reading along, I unfolded Jay's $35 check. "Enclosed is a check for a dollar a year for good health since 1948."

Huh? Is it 1983 so soon?

"OK," Jay's letter continues. "So I can't add. . . ."

And Emily Montfort can't sleep at night. At least not until she gets an answer to the burning question: What are those green lines you see painted on several District streets?

Emily mailed a donation to Children's from her home in Bowie, and she was kind enough not to make it contingent on finding out what the green lines are for. But I'll take her out of her misery just the same--and you, too, in case you didn't know, either.

The lines denote the route of the D.C. Marathon.

Trying Harder Dept.:

A few weeks back, Penny Pritchett and the rest of the staff at Avis Rent A Car's M Street NW office placed an empty orange juice jar on the counter. A sign asked for donations to Children's. The take: $31. Who said you were No. 2?

And if you think the cool winds of openness have blown throughout the Central Intelligence Agency, there is evidence both pro and con.

In as candid a way as you could wish, the CIA's Training Support Division, Office of Training and Education sent along a $50 donation. The letter was even signed by Doris A. Stilwell, in ink that hasn't disappeared.

But in the same day's mail, another CIA group sent in a $75 donation. They asked to be identified only as a "small group of CIA employes."

Donations from "the gals" at a pair of school cafeterias:

From Bowie Senior High School comes $27, and from the Terra-Centre School in Burke, Va., comes another $15. A tip of the meal ticket to you, gang.

Caroling update:

* Neighbors from the 100 and 200 blocks of North Oakland Street in Arlington limbered up their larynxes, and raised $8 for Children's.

* Ditto a "bunch of us kids" from Shadetree Lane in Laurel. Their take: $5.

* In Alexandria, the Shooter's Hill Carollors turned in a best-ever Christmas Eve total of $87.54, even though "our saxophone player has, alas, moved to Canada," according to Lois Kelso Hunt.

* And in Bethesda, for the fifth year in a row, a group of friends who are now juniors and seniors at Walt Whitman High School filled the streets with silent nights and little towns of Bethlehem. "Some speculate that people are paying us in hopes that we will shut up," writes the group's anonymous contribution-forwarder. After five years, group, you've proven you're unshutuppable. Thanks for the $10.

Their pet bumper sticker insists that "Bridge Players Do It With Finesse." But there's nothing delicate about the way area bridge clubs have been contributing to Children's.

* According to director Kitty Pickett, 44 players and one kibitzer contributed $1 each at the Silver Spring Duplicate's annual holiday charity game.

* Another $25, from the "penalty pennies" depository, was given by the Brown Bag Bridge Club of Arlington/Alexandria.

* The Benefit Bridge Club of Falls Church/McLean sent an additional $50.

* The 16 members of the Thursday Party Bridge Club of the Country Club of Fairfax sent two bucks each.

* The Monday Duplicate Bridge Club of Annandale contributed $36.

* The Ladies Horizon Bridge Club collected $10.

* And from the Grandmothers' Bridge Club of Virginia comes $14.

Many thanks, one and all.

Last but far from least, let me offer a mention and an apology in the same breath.

Mary Barnes writes to thank us for the postcard acknowledging the $250 contribution of her group--the Plate Printers of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. But she also wants to know why the heck the donation hasn't appeared in the paper.

The reason, Mary, is the overpopulation problem in our "groups" file.

The blessed thing is as thick as two roast beef sandwiches stacked one on top of the other. Two serious roast beef sandwiches. Like mother used to fix.

We're printing the names of Giving Groups as soon as possible. As we have said right along, we intend and promise to print all such names before the campaign ends.

Sorry for the delay, Mary and fellow printers. For the rest of you, all we ask is a little patience.