Thursday, January 12, 2012


Tomorrow is my daughter's birthday, and I am sending her this digital cake. I wish I could send her or make her an analog cake (meaning a real one), but she lives too far away for that. Anyway, as many people know, having a child is one of the most life-altering experiences there is, so a child's birth-day, no matter how old she becomes, can stir things up. Last week, my husband reminded me of a memory I'd put aside for quite a while, and I think it fits well as a Discomfort or Diversity, so I've decided to tell it here.
     Because we are Jewish, when our daughter was young (say 4 or 5) and Christmas came around, my husband talked straight to her about Santa. The reason was that he did not want her to feel left out or ignored by the jolly old gent and all his jolly gifts.
Perhaps he was being overly protective, but he did it out of love. If we lived in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood or town (as I did when I was growing up), perhaps he wouldn't have felt the need, but we don't, so he did.
     Back then, we were very close friends with a family that also had young children. That family was not Jewish, and Christmas was a great, magical event in their home--tree, wreaths, lights, cookies, scented candles, and all the rest. One evening, around Christmas, we were visiting at their house. The children were in one room playing, and the adults were in a different room doing what adults do--probably talking.
     Suddenly, the children came running in, a little frantic, and one of them reported that our daughter had declared Santa to be not real. No one knew what to do or say. Not the adults.

Not the children. Including our daughter, who I think might have been a bit shocked at the power of her words.

I understand the urge to protect the innocence and illusions of childhood, though I never had any particular feelings about Santa except terror. As a young girl, I did somewhat cling to the tooth-fairly illusion, which my parents were very cagey about--never really admitting how the exchange of tooth and coin occurred.
    Perhaps we should all just "stick to our own kind" if we want to protect the innocence of our children. You know I'm kidding, right? But it is kind of confusing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My Santa story: Many of us who grew up in Detroit could not miss the J.L. Hudson Company Christmas display. My religious Jewish parents, except for my father's love of frog legs and my mother's passion for Chinese food, took me to see Santa until I caught on. My mother colored Easter eggs for me and our children. Evidently she did not feel there was much harm in doing this; nor did I with our children.
Off to JLH we went with our children to find two lines to see Santa, me almost as excited as the kids to see the beauty of the season, which I still enjoy. Being curious about why so many formed one long line, while about four kiddies waited impatiently in a short line. I asked the employee in charge.
"There's a Black (that was the word then) Santa and a White Santa, " she told me unembarrassed.
"Okay," I said, heading toward the Black Santa line. "We're Jewish."
My daughter came home from her first day of school and asked me what "that" word meant that she saw written on the bathroom wall. I said it was a bad word and I would explain it when she was old enough to understand it. So much for protecting the innocence of our children, religious or otherwise.