Santas I Have Known
From Diane Nault
Santas appear often in the folklore and traditional stories of the season but only some of them capture the true spirit of the holiday and only a few are generous and thoughtful and want simply to bring joy to others. The real Santas are not those commercial figures encouraging you to overspend but rather the ones that encourage you to think beyond yourself and to open your hearts to share whatever you can with others.
The year was 1969 and we had been married only for a few months. Over the summer we had moved to College Park, Maryland, just outside Washington, DC so that my husband could take graduate courses at the University. Being on a very tight budget as newlyweds, we knew that going home for the Christmas holiday was out of the question that year. But we were determined to make the best of it.
At the time, we had little furniture in our student apartment …just our bedroom set and a kitchen set bought by my parents. By setting a little money aside, we did manage to buy our very first Christmas tree. However, we had no money left over to buy any decorations. And so we decided to make ornaments out of Christmas cookies. We baked different shapes – mostly stars and hearts and circles – we decorated each one with frosting and sprinkles, carefully threading the string through the holes we had made in the top of each cookie. When we had finished, the tree looked very “homey”, certainly not glittery or sparkly, but old-fashioned, country-quaint. It wasn’t going to win any prizes but it was our first tree and we were happy.
While my husband attended his classes, I worked in the library at the University. One of my co-workers in the library was a music student from a town just outside Baltimore. Judy and I had become good friends and she listened to my story about our homemade Christmas tree. Just before the Christmas break, Judy and I shared our lunch, including a few of those Christmas cookies. Judy reached across the table and handed me a small box wrapped in colorful paper and ribbons. Inside were 6 shiny glass ornaments for our tree! Being Jewish, she explained, she had never had a tree to decorate at home but had always admired the colorful trees displayed in the local shops and seen through the windows of the houses around campus. Judy was thrilled to know her ornaments would take a place of honor on my tree. We were so touched by her kindness.
Each year when my husband and I take down the Christmas decorations from the attic and set out all the ornaments for our tree, we always pause when we see “Judy”s ornaments. There are no longer 6 in the box. Being made of glass, they all did not survive the years in a house with children, three cats, and now two grandchildren. But the few that remain are very dear to me. They always make me think of my friend Judy and I remember that the true “Santa “spirit comes in many forms, and may even be found in the heart of someone who does not share this holiday.
Publishers’ note: Diane wrote this piece in 2014 and wanted to share it through the Holliston Reporter. Thank you Diane.