I have spent years expanding my blog with observances of the quirkiness of my surroundings, chronicling the deaths of those once celebrated and now forgotten, stories from my past and, of course, my silly drawings. In that time, I presented my opinioned views on religion, of both my own and those of which I am not a follower. Because I have often been questioned as the peer-appointed spokesman of the Jewish faith, I have tried to detail the unusual customs and rituals associated with being a member of “The Chosen People.” Well, it’s time for Josh Pincus to come clean.
I grew up in a Jewish household. To me, that meant we didn’t drag a tree into our living room every December, we didn’t dress up in our finest clothes on a late Sunday in April, and we didn’t believe that Jesus was Our Savior — whatever that meant. (Who thought, at four years old, I needed saving?) Despite the majority of my friends and classmates also being Jewish, we weren’t denied participation in Christmas card and gift exchanges at school and dyeing Easter eggs every spring. It also didn’t stop me from enjoying another practice associated with my communion wafer-receiving friends — the visit to Santa Claus.
I have vivid memories of accompanying my Mom to one of several large department stores in the pre-mall days of the 1960s. The store’s toy department was jammed with all the latest offerings to fulfill a child’s appetite whetted by Saturday morning commercials and the thick Sears Wish Book. Just past the aisles of colorful playthings was an area gaily decorated with twinkling lights, pine garland, speckled with oversized red velvet bows and piles of fake snow. In the center sat a raised platform covered with more fake snow surrounding a great throne on which sat the seasonal fat man himself. Several holly-decked pylons connected by candy-striped rope designated a queue line. Excited children chatted and fidgeted as they waited their turn to greet St. Nick and impart their requests for gifts.
My mom directed me to join the line while she made arrangements with the “elves” operating the huge tripod-supported camera for a photographic record of my encounter with Santa. (Although I’m sure he did, I don’t recall my older brother joining us for these yearly excursions. Obviously, he got wise to this scam at an earlier age than I did.) I patiently waited for my chance to tell Santa what I wanted. I knew that we didn’t celebrate Christmas, didn’t have a Christmas tree and especially didn’t have a chimney or fireplace, but I never made the connection. All I knew was: if you wanted presents, this was the guy to ask. A smiling little girl in white tights and a plaid coat climbed down from Santa’s lap and happily skipped away. A young lady — no doubt earning a few bucks on her winter break from college, in full elf uniform — waved me in. My moment in the spotlight had arrived. My mom stood by the platform’s exit ramp and beamed. Well, I’d fix that in a few minutes.
The kind-faced Santa looked down at me perched on his red-flocked lap and asked if I had been good this year. My four-year old mind assessed the question. As if any four-year old would fess up, I answered that I not only had I been good, I’d been very good. Then, he asked the most important question, the one I was preparing for. “What would you like for Christmas?,” he smiled. I wrinkled my brow and bent my tiny mouth into a frown at the “Christmas” reference. But nevertheless, I raised my head proudly, cleared my little throat and replied.
“My very own roll of Scotch tape.”
Santa stared, perplexed. “What?,” he asked in a puzzled tone.
“I want my very own roll of Scotch tape.,” I repeated. (Okay, I thought, the guy’s old. Maybe he didn’t catch me on the first go-round.) Santa looked over my shoulder at my mother, seeking some sort of clue. My mother frantically looked around for a place to hide. She glanced back at Santa with a painful “that-is-not-my-kid-on-your-lap” expression on her face. Santa looked at me again and saw the “I-am-not-shittin’-around” expression on my face. With disbelief, he stammered as he echoed my request.
“A roll of Scotch tape?”
“Nothing else?,” he asked, somewhat hopeful.
I stared back at Santa with my own disbelief. “Nope.,” I said. I looked at him squarely and thought: Why on earth would I want anything else? I’m talking Scotch-fucking-tape, my chubby friend! Do you have any idea how much fun I could have with my very own roll of Scotch tape?
The bewildered Santa smiled a crooked smile, nodded, handed me a candy cane and sent me on my way. I joined my mom who was busily trying to hide her embarrassment from the other mothers. “Did you just ask Santa for a roll of Scotch tape?,” she asked.
“Yep. Of my very own.”
Mission accomplished. My mom and I continued walking through the store.
(left) Josh Pincus visits with Santa, circa 1965.
(right) JPiC hits the jackpot!