Sunday, December 13, 2015

Santa Claus

(Content from this post was included in my book, Appearances: A Journey of Self-Discovery in Chapter 8: Santa Claus. I modified the chapter for Project 4 Toastmaster Speech.)

I was the 2nd born of 6 children. My grandparents on both sides of the family were Russian, Orthodox Jewish immigrants. My mother’s father was a tailor and made clothes. My father’s father started an advertising specialty business.

While my mother stayed home with us, my father worked for his father’s business which didn’t pay very well so when Chanukah came, we got one big present we all had to share. Fortunately, my mother loved crafts, so each year we learned a new craft and made presents for everyone in our family.

In the meantime, everyone I knew in school celebrated Christmas and talked about what Santa Claus brought them. Well, I thought Chanukah was boring! I wanted Christmas! With LOTS of presents, a beautiful big Christmas tree that smelled like evergreen and was decorated with ornaments and colored lights. I wanted decorations on the front lawn… like our neighbor had.

One December, while I was still a little girl, our neighbor asked my mother to paint the details on some reindeer she got for her yard display. Mom did a beautiful job, but would not accept any money—HOWEVER, that year, Santa Claus came.

Santa brought each of us girls our very own baby doll. I didn’t have to share her with ANYone. I played house and made all kinds of houses and furniture out of boxes, cardboard, and fabric.

We all grew up and got busy with our own lives, careers, and families so there was no longer time to be creative. And none of us dated or married anyone Jewish. In 2 separate relationships, the partners I had were often unemployed and had bad credit. They insisted I spend the holidays with their families and I couldn’t go to mine. They also insisted on buying their family members expensive gifts—with MY credit cards. I can’t believe I let them! In spite of the red flags, I even married the 2nd one.

With my life often in a state of chaos, I wished with all my might that there was a real Santa Claus. One day when I was picking up supplies during the holiday season for the service station I was working for, I saw a beautiful stuffed Santa. Back at work, I described it to my boss with childish excitement. When he went to the store the next day, he bought it for me and said Merry Christmas! I don’t think he realized how precious that gift was to me. Santa Claus became a symbol of hope and I kept him out all year long.

My husband not only insisted we spend the holidays with his family, he insisted we move from California to Austin, TX. Most of our stuff, including Santa, went into a storage space in California before we left. We weren’t able to go back that summer and get the stuff out of storage as planned.

As Christmas was approaching, I got homesick and announced I wanted to take a trip to see my family. My husband said NO and replied that I had to choose between him and my family. I chose. I left him in November 1995 and took my son home via Amtrak to visit my family.

During that trip, I drove to the storage locker to get my son’s body-board, my Santa, and a few other things I really missed only to find out that the lock had been changed. Apparently, my husband was afraid that I’d take something of his while he wasn’t there.

My son and I boarded Amtrak Christmas eve to return to Texas. I cried myself to sleep that night on the train. On Christmas morning, Santa Clause came to me again… in a dream. He handed me a small magic sleigh that transported me to many different rooms in a large house. Each room contained one of the goals I had in my life. He said to look! It is all yours! The last room I was taken to was a room full of toys.

There was a little boy sitting in the middle of the toys crying and a little girl standing with a stubborn expression on her face. The little girl was told that she had everything she wanted and needed to make her happy but the boy had nothing but the toys. Why not let the boy have all the toys? When she agreed, I woke up.

Contrary to the way I felt the night before, I was in a state of total and complete joy. I knew that God used the symbol of Santa Claus to give me hope. I realized the little girl was my inner child and that the little boy was my husband’s inner child. With Santa’s promise that every one of my dreams would be fulfilled, I released the despair of losing all my and my son’s things.

When my son and I got back to Texas, I hired a lawyer and filed for divorce with a loan from a friend and gave the whole situation to God to work out. I found Rudolph at a Thrift store and he kept me company, assuring me that Santa would return. At the end of the school year I made arrangements to stay with my older sister, and moved back to California with my son.

Shortly after we arrived, my niece spotted my Rudolph and showed me her Santa. We shared stories about how we ended up with them. The following day, she brought home a Rudolph that matched her Santa and gave them both to me as a gift. She didn’t see my tears. Santa kept showing up to remind me that everything would be OK.

When I felt hopeless that December, I could only see a small part of a much bigger picture. At the time I did not realize I would be returning to California to continue my life. It turned out that I was fortunate our things were still in storage there, for just like we didn’t have the money to bring them to Texas, I would not have had the money to bring it all back home.

My lawyer sent me a letter stating that my soon to be ex would get what was his out of the storage space the following July and turn the key over to me. Since all the furniture had been bought with my credit cards, I was to have the furniture, too. People told me not to trust my ex—but I trusted God, and I knew Santa would be there to supervise.

My son and I celebrated Christmas that July when we were able to get our things out of the storage locker. To this day, Santa Claus is very special to me.