Dear Santa

August 27, 2010

Dear Santa Clause,

Mommy and Daddy say you don’t exist because we’re Jewish. But my best friend Wanda says that you do and she’s my best friend so I’m going to listen to her.

I’m 8 and I’m starting 3d grade tomorrow. I don’t want to go back to school. But Wanda says that Christmas will be here very soon (in 4 months) and that then I can get presents from you if I ask for them nicely.

Wanda got a lot of nice presents last year. She got another pony doll for her collection and a bathing suit for the summer (she says that was a funny present to get in the winter but I said it was a good idea and that you’re smart for thinking ahead) and a computer game about ponies (how do you know that she likes ponies? Does she tell you?) and also a book that’s about a horse (she likes ponies better than horses but she still liked the book. It was about a ghost horse! It was a good book. We read it together.)

I have been very good this year Santa. I wrote in my diary every day like the reading and writing teacher said I should last year because I wasn’t so good at it. Mommy helped me with spelling all the time but then she also showed me how to find the right spelling on Google. Do you know about Google Santa? I bet you do. Maybe you started it. I asked Wanda why I couldn’t email you and she said that you didn’t have internet in the North Pole (or South Pole? I can’t remember but I’ll ask Wanda before I send the letter).

I have also been helping Mommy do shopping for food every week and I take my dog Pesky for a walk every day (Mommy and Daddy take him for walks too) but only around the park because Mommy doesn’t want me to cross the street alone yet. I crossed the street alone once because Wanda dared me to but except for that I have been very good!

I know it is early to write to you, but I wanted to tell you that even though I’m Jewish and we have Hanukah I still want to have Christmas too. It’s not just for the presents. I’m not greedy! It’s just that Wanda has a fireplace and we don’t so I think you’ll have to come in through the window in my room (it’s biggest) and then I’ll get to see you. I want to meet your raindeer. Why are they called that Santa? Do they like the rain?

Like Mommy said to do I’m reading everything I wrote now to check for spelling and I fixed some stuff (ok a lot of stuff but I’m getting better!) and I know that I asked you a lot of questions. Will you write back to me Santa? I hope you will. I want a penpal.

I hope I see you in December!

Sincerely,

Me (Wanda says you know who we are and that we shouldn’t write our names in case someone else finds the letter and tries to find out where we live. But you know where we live already so that’s ok)

Passover and Flying

Last night was Passover. While every single one of my friends and acquaintances here in Israel was at a Seder [that’s the Passover dinner] and either enjoying or loathing their families, I was at home, alone with my mother, watching Julie & Julia. Which is an excellent film, by the way. Oh no, don’t feel sorry for me! My mom and I were relieved to spend a quiet night together, and we didn’t want to be at a Seder! Some people were jealous of us for having no familial obligations here.

But tonight we’re flying to Los Angeles, and we’re going to have extensive familial obligations there. I don’t consider my brother or my aunts as obligations, of course, nor do I consider my mother’s close friends who are almost like family as such. No, the obligations come in on Saturday night, when we’ll be attending a late and unconventionally dated Seder [the reason for it is that it had to fit all the young’uns’ spring-breaks].

Hmm. I still sound bitter. But these obligations are ones I take on with joy. I love my extensive, slightly nutty, family. I love the gossip and the laughs and the way I’m finally treated as an adult and privy to such knowledge as who’s cheating, who’s getting divorced or who’s off the wagon. Not that I wish these things upon anyone in my family, but when a large group of sixty to eighty people join together for a dinner, gossip is bound to happen.

As you may be able to tell, I’m quite frazzled. I need to pack my carry-on bag, shower, and be ready in half an hour with a thermos of coffee to take to the park so that Sir. B. F. and I can spend an hour alone before he drives us to the airport.

I’m going to try, as hard as I possibly can, to keep writing every day, and keep track of all my friends here. Wish me luck!

Sniff

Leaning out of the window, bringing in the laundry, hands touching the cold clothing hanging in the cold air, I catch a scent. Just a whif at first, and then the smell fills my nostrils, and I breath it deeply, tears gathering in my eyes. It’s the smell of latkes, this sort of potato-patty thing – it’s a traditional thing to cook during the Jewish holiday, Hannukah, which is ending tonight. Why is it that the enticing smell of fried potatos makes my eyes water? My father used to make them every holiday time, and when I was smaller and ate an even smaller variety of foods than I eat today, I hated the smell. Today though, it makes me hungry to smell it and cry to think that my father won’t ever make it again and I’ll never get to show him that I might like his cooking for once.

It’s incredible how smell triggers the memory, isn’t it? The smallest of scents blown into your nostrils from a tiny breath of wind can remind you vividly of a sumemr’s day when you got your first kiss, of a night of partying with friends, of a person you haven’t seen for a long time or of a place you miss and long to be in. It’s amazing, in my mind, how smells can bring up memories long forgotten or ignored.

Sniff away, then, I say – you may discover some feeling or time you hardly remember.

Happy New Year, Jews of the World!

It’s 9:47PM here in the Holy Land and the holiday is officially on! Marvelous holiday, this Rosh Hashana business. Better than Christmas even! Sure we don’t have big fur trees or snow, but we’ve got FISH HEADS. Nothing beats some fish heads and some strangely shaped fruit with lots of seeds.

So gather ’round the table, all you family folk, and sing the kindergarten songs that pass for carols and rejoice, for today is the first day of the new year and soon enough you’ll get to fast! Wonderful, marvelous, go, go, enjoy, have fun! Go hug all the family members that you hate and kiss their cheeks and tell them Shana Tova! Drink a bottle or two of wine, it’s OK, you can repent it in a few days!

New year’s resolution: Stop being so cynical about harmless holidays.