I have kind of an unusual relationship with Santa. Probably the weirdest part about it is the fact that we have any relationship, period – because, you know, I’m Jewish. For Jewish kids, Santa is like your workplace hosting a doughnut party when you’re on vacation: it’s nice, but it doesn’t really affect you at all. In the winter of 1990, however, I wanted a sewing machine; and I went to Santa to get it.
Nowadays you can watch children’s television programming until your eyeballs fall out of your head; but back in the olden times if you wanted to binge cartoons, you had to wait for Saturday morning. My little sister and I would wake up just in time for Jem and the Holograms – a show that was “outrageous, contagious,” just like the sparkly-pink commercials that played throughout the episodes. Barbies! Cabbage Patch Kids! Polly Pocket! After each ad we’d shout, “We want a Care Bear!” And our mother would say, “That’s nice” or “Hmm” or “Pee-yoo,” as she sniffed the air (because someone was “spoiled rotten”). And then she’d go about her life.
In November of 1990 the most-often played commercial was for a toy sewing machine that used yarn to bind paper and felt.
“I need a toy sewing machine,” I said to my mother.
“There’s a real sewing machine upstairs,” my mom replied. “We can sew something together. That will be fun!”
“But the one I want sews felt,” I told her.
“So does the one upstairs,” she said.
“And paper,” I said. “With YARN.”
My mother handed me a hole puncher. “There’s some yarn in the cabinet. You can sew it by hand. Maybe you can make Grandma a book for Hanukkah!”
“UGH,” I said. “I don’t want to do it by hand. I want a sewing machine!”
“Pee-yoo,” my mother said, sniffing my shoulder. “Someone is spoi-led.”
That year, Hanukkah came and went and there wasn’t a sewing machine to be seen (besides the one we already owned). I did, however, get a book of kid’s sewing patterns and some pretty fabric so as to add insult to injury. I ultimately made (spite) pillows out of it.
We were walking through the mall a couple of weeks later when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a team of elves, a lighted Christmas display – and in the center, Santa taking requests from all of the good boys and girls.
While my mother shopped for shoes for my sister, I considered the Santa situation. We did have a chimney, I told myself. We also had two big decorative trees in our living room; and while they weren’t pine, they were strung with white twinkle lights. Plus, we celebrated Christmas every year with our family friends and decorated their pine tree…so…
I tapped my mom on the arm.
“Can I go talk to Santa?”
My mother considered it for a moment. As a mother myself, I’m guessing she was thinking, “What kind of crackpot question is this?”
“Sure,” she said, after a moment.
Back then (and maybe now), it was free to meet the big guy. Plus, you got a candy cane. I was up at the front of the line before I had spit-whittled my candy cane to a point.
“What would you like for Christmas?” Santa ho-ho-ho’d to me.
“I’d like a sewing machine,” I said.
“A sewing machine!” Santa’s voice boomed throughout the space. “Very good.” Then he patted me on the back and I returned to the shoe store. My mother and I never spoke of the interaction, although she did ask if I got my sister a candy cane (which I did not).
You will be unsurprised to hear that I didn’t get a sewing machine for Christmas. I didn’t get anything for Christmas, as per usual – because, you know, I’m Jewish.
For the next fifteen years, I told that story over and over again to any willing ear. I always ended with the punchline, “The moral of the story is, Santa is not for the Jews.” I got a laugh at least once.
In January of 2005, I met the woman that would one day be my mother-in-law. As there is no better way to endear yourself to your boyfriend’s family than by disparaging their major religious holiday, I shared my Santa story, ending with my hilarious punchline. At the end, my mother-in-law said, “Hmm.” She probably also laughed because she had a good sense of humor and, like I said, it was hilarious.
Just about a year later, I awoke on Christmas morning to find a big shiny box under my family-in-law’s Christmas tree with my name in it. The tag read “From Santa.” Inside was a sewing machine.
The first thing I sewed on that machine was a set of potholders for my future mother-in-law. I also used it to sew the binding on my wedding programs instead of stapling them, because it turns out that real sewing machines will sew paper, too.
The photo above is of my sewing machine, which is that blurry thing in the background because I asked Kyle to take the picture and I’m not sure he understood what we were doing.
It’s Christmastime, which means we have both an abundance of good cheer and good news. Read on, and Merry Christmas!
North Dakota is just about able to declare “functional zero homelessness for veterans” across the state. (Grand Forks Herald)
Once again, the Minot and Minot Air Force Base communities have baked up thousands of cookies to be given to airmen for the holidays. (Minot Daily News)
Looking for a place to eat on Christmas? Victory Lutheran Church in Jamestown is delivering 800+ meals to anyone who is hungry. (Jamestown Sun)
The Century High School boys hockey team donated 50 presents – with an additional $10 boost from Scheels for each shopper – to patients at Sanford Hospital. (KX Net)
Hunter Andes, an English teacher on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, has been awarded a silver medal from the Nonfiction Authors Association for his book, “The Elders: Stories from Fort Berthold.” (Minot Daily News)
Sixth graders at Wachter Middle School in Bismarck sewed up some Christmas ornaments to be donated to the Benedictine Living Community. (KX Net)
Four children, ages 5 to 7, have been honored by the Grand Forks Police Department (with Dairy Queen) for helping stop a potential kidnapping. (Grand Forks Herald)
Minot’s Tyler Schmaltz has put together a Google map of all of the best Christmas lights in town. (KX Net)
Fargo’s Tristian Ellenson returned from his deployment in Africa by surprising his wife. (Fargo Forum)
And Minot’s Adam Gottbreht surprised his mom on his return from his naval deployment. (KFYR TV)
The Salvation Army now has 740 ham dinners for families to celebrate Christmas Day thanks to two area businesses. (KVRR)
Four-hundred North Dakota second-graders got to have a little Christmas party – and receive a backpack with toys, essentials, and a grocery gift card – thanks to a program serving the state’s eight Title I schools. (KX Net)
For the 23rd year, an organization called Freedom Prison Ministries helped female inmates send a gift (and a gift card for dinner) to their children for Christmas. (KFYR TV)
I try not to put too many business donations in here because they would take over the news, but this one was so unique I had to share it. Minot’s Dakota Chappy Boutique has put together gift packages for children to give to their mothers for Christmas. (KX Net)
Did you get your $3 North Dakota Nice sticker yet? As a reminder, 100% of the proceeds go to St. Joe’s! Click here to check it out.