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Santa’s Fusilli Mistake

Before we went to Hershey last week, I had this bizarre dream where we were raising chickens and keeping them in these small boxes and the boxes were filled with a liquid that resembled uncooked egg whites that the chickens had to sit in and floating beside them were these diseased eggs…

…do you think I’m having anxiety over anything in particular?  Freud?  Freud?


I need to preface this story by telling you that a few days before the trolley ride, we bumped into an acquaintance and her husband, whom I private call Arthur P Fuckstein because he always says such fuckstein-y sorts of things, informed me–APROPOS OF NOTHING WE WERE TALKING ABOUT AT THE MOMENT–that my daughter’s name was not a real name.  In front of my daughter.  I just smiled and said, “I have a birth certificate that might disagree with you.”  Because guess what, Arthur P Fuckstein?  I named her it, therefore, it’s real.  And I can point at hundreds, nay thousands, of other people with her name and it’s in every Hebrew baby naming book.

But then we encountered Santa.

Hershey’s Chocolate World holds a special Christmas-themed trolley ride in the winter and we decided to surprise the twins and drive them up to Pennsylvania for the day to gorge ourselves on chocolate and listen to carols and spend time with the other non-Christian families who for some reason have come to Hershey to celebrate Christmas.  When we were buying our tickets, the staff asked the twins their names and I didn’t think much of it because they generally attract attention simply due to the fact that they’re twins.

We sat down to eat lunch before the ride and Josh admitted that Santa would be coming on the trolley at some point and passing out gifts and the staff worker wanted to know if we were cool with this.  Josh had agreed to the gift giving because he thought it would be more awkward for the twins to decline it, but we prepped them with the idea that though we’re not Christian ourselves, when in Rome (by which, when in Christian America, by which I mean, every day of your life), we’ll do as the Romans do and politely pretend that we celebrate Christmas unless otherwise asked.  And then, if asked, we can talk about the fact that we don’t celebrate Christmas.  In other words, the average person we pass on the street doesn’t need to be corrected; a person we’ll interact with again is worth the explanation.

We got on the trolley and the actors were dressed in Christmas-themed clothing and we sang carols and talked about Christmas back in Mr. Hershey’s time and the ChickieNob stared at me incredulously as if I had just announced to the trolley car that I enjoy raping nuns.  She kept whispering, “how do you know these songs?” and I had to keep whispering back that you just get to know them if you live long enough.  That while Christian people will never know the words to “L’cha Dodi”, pretty much every Jew in America can sing “Jingle Bells.”

About 2/3rds of the way through the trip, I look out the window to see Santa traipsing through the woods and sure enough, he soon boarded the trolley with a jolly “ho, ho, ho” which made the ChickieNob start to rock back and forth like she needed to pee.  “I have to tell him I’m Jewish,” she whispered to me.

“You don’t,” I whispered back.

“I have to do it.  I have to tell him I’m Jewish.”

“You don’t,” I promised.  “I mean, you can, but you don’t need to do it.  It’s meaningless in his world.”

“I have to shout it,” she said, now in a normal tone of voice, loud enough for all the surrounding families to hear.  “I have to get it out of me.  I have to tell him I’m Jewish.  I have to scream it.”

This went on for a while, with me trying to convince her that she doesn’t need to act as if she just had the Holy Spirit enter her body, shaking and quaking like someone who has to give witness.  The way she was moving her body, I half expected the ChickieNob to yank a poisonous snake out of her pocket and start waving it around in the air while she screamed out her matrilineal heritage, tracing back her Jewishness to Sarah herself.

Santa walked up and down the aisle, calling out the name of each child on the trolley from a long scroll and suddenly, the ChickieNob’s fears changed.  “Santa isn’t going to give me a present because I’m Jewish.  He’s going to give a present to everyone on the trolley but me and the Wolvog.”

The burning need to shout her faith to the 19-year-old kid playing Santa gave way to a lament about being left behind continuously in a season that points out what every other child gets.  She has seen the commercials, she knows the drill.  Christian kids get presents, but no one comes to her house.  We shlep her downtown and make her volunteer while other children are eating sugar cookies and playing with new toys.

This new fear was whispered over and over again until finally, the whitest Santa in the world got to her name.  By which I mean he sort of got to her name because he COULDN’T PRONOUNCE IT.  Four-part Sanskrit names rolled off his tongue seconds earlier.  He didn’t even stumble over the monikers of the siblings from Pakistan seated a few seats ahead of us.  He gaily laughed at the sibilance created over Suk-Chul’s name as he handed the Korean boy his gift.

But he got to my daughter’s name–a tiny wisp of a name–and couldn’t say it.  And not only did he not pronounce it correctly–dayenu–but the name he did say was absolutely ridiculous, containing letters that weren’t there to form a word that as Josh has pointed out, no parent in America would name their child.

For example, imagine you had named your child Fusilli because you love the pasta shape so much, and now imagine Santa walking down the aisle pronouncing your child’s name “Fuck-silly?  Fuck-silly?”.  There is no “ck” in that name!  There is no parent who is going to knowingly give their child a name that starts with “fuck!”  Fusilli may not be a common name in your circles, but still, someone playing Santa should not get it so terribly wrong that he is turning your name into a sexual act.  A ridiculous one at that.

So Santa was saying her name wrong, and the ChickieNob finally couldn’t hold back any longer, the tumultuous feelings running through her body for the last 5 minutes, and she screamed to the whole trolley, “SANTA CAN’T EVEN SAY MY NAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAME!”

Santa was a little stunned and very apologetic, and she told him how to say it and he repeated it and apologized several more times while she stopped crying and accepted his gift, a Christmas ornament.  All of this tsuris for a Christmas ornament.  I think it put everything in perspective for her because she deep breathed and stared at it with an expression that said, “all of that for this?”  Santa miraculously got her brother’s name right–a name that almost everyone mispronounces on a continuous basis.  I will admit that it can be a hard name to say correctly on the first try if you’re reading it off a piece of paper.  But Santa got that one right, though the Wolvog was terrified of Santa, didn’t want him to come near, and breathed afterward that he couldn’t believe people were excited for that man to come INTO THEIR HOUSE.  It would be like me welcoming in a little cricket family.

When we got off the trolley, they handed out pieces of candy and the ChickieNob once again told me that she needed to tell Santa that she’s Jewish.  I shrugged my shoulders, and watched as she took the chocolate and said in her tiny voice, “I’m actually Jewish and we don’t celebrate Christmas.”  But Santa, who was looking longingly at the 20-year-old caroler, possibly thinking about how he could jingle her bells later, didn’t hear the ChickieNob and we walked back into the building to for a family trolley ride debriefing.

There’s a lot to learn here; sometimes even Santa can make mistakes.  That it rocks to participate in someone else’s culture or religion, but we can’t expect it to be a perfect fit–it’s like borrowing a friend’s jacket where it may keep you warm, but it will never hug your body quite like one in your size.  That we don’t need to get ourselves worked up over nothing because yes, things generally turn out be nothing no matter how much emotional energy you invest.  Sometimes you think you’re getting a ballet Barbie, but you end up with a cheap, mass-produced ornament and a Hershey kiss.

And it’s all good if you let it roll off your back, even if Santa can’t say your name.


1 Meghan { 01.09.10 at 7:29 pm }

Poor Chickienob. But damn that had me snorting wine out my nose. And I can always use a life lesson in how best to use my emotional energy

i’ve also been fascinated this year with how others spend their holiday…I think because this is the first year I actually had to think about how we wanted sweetness to celebrate both hannukah and Christmas. Last year it didn’t matter so much. I like your volunteerism. I think I’ll build that into the blended interfaith traditions we create for ourselves

2 A.M.S. { 01.09.10 at 7:46 pm }

Oh, how I understand how the Chickienob feels. My last name growing up was Cando…pronounced CAN-doh, not CAN-doo. While the second was the most common mis-pronunciation, I frequently got ( either spoken or in writing after spelling my name to someone) Candle, Canada, and, once, Condom. Throw in having to constantly spell and re-spell A-L-L-I-S-O-N and still get Alison/Alyson/ Alacin, and some variations that defy explanation. You develop thick skin over it, but there’s still a little bit that wants to scream out, “PAY ATTENTION!!! IT’S MY NAME AND IT MATTERS!!!”

Even now, when we have to give a name to a restaurant host or for our coffee order, I use Shannon’s name instead of mine.

3 T Lee { 01.09.10 at 7:52 pm }

Haha, I understand the name pain. I NO ONE EVERRRR pronounces my name right Tasjaana (tah- sha- na). Hell, my husband doesn’t even quite get it right- he says Tashawna. The most common mistake is ‘Tas- jana’- understandable… but at one point I suffered through two years of a soccer coach calling me “Taj-mahal.” Yes, like the large palace in India. For real. There isn’t even an M in it, you fucknut!

4 Terry { 01.09.10 at 8:34 pm }

I’m not Freud but…look again at what you wrote : Chickens (what do they do, what are they known for), eggs and diseased eggs, little boxes filled with a liquid that resembles uncooked egg whites that the chickens have to sit in…

5 JC { 01.09.10 at 8:39 pm }

LOL this had me laughing! Poor ChickieNob! I LOVE that she HAD to tell santa she was Jewish, she sounds awesome!

6 Vee { 01.09.10 at 9:22 pm }

I totally understand the name problem, my name is always pronounced incorrectly or it can be heard as something completely different over the phone.
I love that the ChickieNob had tell Santa she was Jewish. Good on her!

7 Michelle { 01.09.10 at 9:24 pm }

Oh my poor Chickie.. so cute though! We go to Hershey every year after Thanksgiving, it’s super cheap to get in and the park is pretty. Hope the twins had fun!

8 Bean { 01.09.10 at 9:28 pm }

Oh poor girl, I’m sorry for her angst but it really is a cute story. I feel for the name issues, it can get frustrating and old fast. Despite that stupid tv show with Robin Williams, when I was growing up there weren’t a lot of Min.dy’s around and so I was always getting called Mandy or Cindy. My maiden name is Frank.furter. Shouldn’t have been hard for anyone to say or spell, but it was so unusual that it just flummoxed everyone.

9 loribeth { 01.09.10 at 9:35 pm }

Poor ChickieNob!

My maiden name was forever being misspelled & mispronounced too.

Reading this made me think of a wonderful memoir that came out in the early 1970s, when I was about 12 or 13. I don’t know if it’s still in print, but it’s called “Raisins & Almonds” by Fredelle Bruser Maynard, & it’s all about her growing up Jewish in the Norwegian community of Birch Hills, Saskatchewan, during the Depression (& then later going to university, etc.). There is a chapter in it about her school’s Christmas concert, & how mortified she was because she would be the only child not to get a present from Santa because she was Jewish. They actually turned that chapter into a TV show that I remember seeing.

Both her daughters grew up to be writers as well — her youngest, Joyce, lived with J.D. Salinger for a year, & the oldest, Rona, was the editor of Chatelaine, a major Canadian women’s magazine.

10 Mrs. Gamgee { 01.09.10 at 9:49 pm }

Oh, poor ChickieNob! (And Wolvog too… that Santa dude can be pretty scary)

While I have never had anyone mispronounce my name, I do have to deal with mis-spellings and gender misconceptions. My name, when spelled the way my mother chose for my birth certificate, is actually the ‘boys way’. As a child I was traumatized by being put into a boys’ ward in the hospital and on boys sports teams. It only stopped when I chose to change the spelling of my name when I was 13.

And don’t even get me started about my maiden name… lol!

11 The Steadfast Warrior { 01.09.10 at 10:24 pm }

I have a feeling this will not be the only instance the dear ChickieNob will experience in the mixed-up name department. I love that she felt the need to declare that she was Jewish. In a way, it’s somewhat humbling that a child her age is able to stand up and be proud of who she is and what makes her different. I hope she’ll carry that spark with her as she gets older.

12 a { 01.09.10 at 11:17 pm }

Poor ChickieNob. She gets all anxious about participating in someone else’s holiday, and then gets personally slighted! On the plus side, after this she’ll probably never be tempted in the slightest to convert to Christianity.

My daughter’s name isn’t a name – it’s a word from the Bible. On top of that, it’s an untranslatable word. I was very surprised to see it in LFCA the other day. Since it’s not a name, people will eternally confuse it with one of two similar and more common names. I blame this on my husband, since he picked it.

My name is very easy and pretty common, yet I find myself having to spell it all the time.

13 Jendeis { 01.10.10 at 12:08 am }

This is now on the list of my fave posts of yours and I’m bookmarking it to make sure that I read it every Christmastime. I can vividly see the Chickie Nob bursting with the emotion of having to tell Santa that she’s Jewish. It’s like she’ll die if she doesn’t tell. And then to have Santa screw up her name! Ugh!

14 Erica { 01.10.10 at 12:15 am }

“jingle her bells later” Ha. Santa is so overrated. Sorry kids.

15 Kristin { 01.10.10 at 12:36 am }

It can be so confusing to be a kid that age.

Tell poor ChickieNob that I’m another one who always has had my name mangled. I think my favorite misspelling was on my Junior Beta Club certificate when they spelled Kristin as Krystyn.

16 Mina { 01.10.10 at 5:31 am }

Fuck-silly! Still chortling… :-))
Poor ChickieNob! I am sorry she has to go through such, erm, silly happenings. Differences in culture and customs always lead to eventually funny stories, but really now, with the plethora of names now, they could have chosen someone who at least could read them correctly (says the goose who tried several times to access the CdC form and couldn’t and contacted the list manager only to be delicately pointed out that it was the 2008 form, hence no longer valid, hence inaccessible, duuh… ).
I do hope your girl understands that mistakes are a constant part of life and that she has to deal with them and does not take it to heart too much.
She seems a sharp little girl, next time I am afraid she will answer back to Santa. And deservedly so.

17 Rebecca { 01.10.10 at 12:21 pm }

Aw, poor Chickie! This does seem like a fitting analogy of life though…so often we are simply SCREAMING to be heard…and no one is even paying attention.
Hugs to ChickieNob and Wolvog!

18 Paz { 01.10.10 at 12:43 pm }

Sorry she had a bad Santa experience, I have to say it, how Christian of her! Many of us have had a bad Santa experience. This year we took our 2 year old son to see “Obama’s Santa” on the grounds behind the White House. Santa says to to my son about, and in front of, his dad, “I bet your grandpa here is going to spoil you little girl. Right grandpa?” Then the photo was snapped. Oy.

I have to say for the record ChickieNob’s name is actually fairly common, how, of how, could he not pronounce it? And I am so curious about how he did pronounce it!

Other than that, it sounds like you had a merry Christmas. That’s what it is all about and that fun and joy is certainly non-denominational.

19 May { 01.10.10 at 12:57 pm }

I grew up in a country where three of the letters in my name don’t even exist in the alphabet. Fun times, fun times. Poor little ChickieNob. My heart really stung for her.

20 luna { 01.10.10 at 2:01 pm }

this is absolutely hilarious. except for the poor chickienob whose name was horribly massacred by the evil fat guy in red. at least she’ll never want him to come to your house.

21 Kitty { 01.10.10 at 3:37 pm }

Poor Chickie!! I feel her pain on the name thing. No one ever believes my name is actually Kitty, and both my maiden and married names are apparently impossible for anyone to pronounce, much less spell. It took me a long time to develop a sense of humor about it.

She is so sweet – HAVING to tell Santa she’s Jewish! That’s totally something I would have done as a kid too, had I been Jewish and in the same situation that is 🙂

22 LJ { 01.10.10 at 8:09 pm }

Your impersonation of her today was spot-on. When that girl has something she needs to say, she SAYS it. Except, of course, when you want her to say it. Then she acts all coy. Such a girlygirl that one.

23 Meim { 01.10.10 at 8:14 pm }

I am so proud of your Chickienob! Way to stick to your guns, girlie!

I hope she actually ended up having an excellent time. Both of your kiddos sound like amazing children. Unique names will only cement how unforgettable they are.

24 Battynurse { 01.11.10 at 1:04 am }

As someone who has frequently had my name pronounced incorrectly I feel for her. Poor girl. I think too I can relate a bit to her dilemma as far as the present goes, getting one or not getting one. I like your outlook of telling people who need telling but not necessarily telling everyone, it’s more laid back than my childhood was. I remember all the times I had to stand up and refuse the treat or goody or whatever because “it was against my religion to celebrate Christmas.” Not that I’m saying I think there’s anything wrong with anyone’s religious beliefs or anyones decision to not celebrate “Christian” holidays, I just think your approach is healthy.

25 Kir { 01.11.10 at 9:15 am }

I feel for you little girl, Kirsten is almost ALWAYS spelled incorrectly..and said incorrectly and I used to be very hurt, until I realized that people who love me will always say it right..and those that don’t..well it’s like radar. which is cool.
Glad you got to enjoy Hershey…next time we’ll meet you there. 🙂

26 Somewhat Ordinary { 01.11.10 at 11:57 am }

Ok, your “friend” is an asshat!! How is her name NOT a name. I’ve heard it plenty-even my best friend’s daughter is named that. And, how the heck can someone hack the pronunciation? Really, I guess people are really THAT clueless.

Good for her for being so secure in who she is! I hope she keeps that amazing trait forever!

27 Geochick { 01.11.10 at 12:56 pm }

Poor Chickie-Nob – good for her standing up for herself to the whole trolley!

28 Briar { 01.11.10 at 8:07 pm }

I can definitely relate. It’s a very good story that she will enjoy when she is older. But yes. Oh, how I hated my name as a child. And the people who mispronounced it were the worst. Also my last name can be strangely hacked into a cactus name when you live in Arizona, which I did. So I was frequently Brian Saguaro. Which…. Argh.

29 Jamie { 01.11.10 at 10:13 pm }

Poor Chickie-Nob! I feel bad that her trolley ride was so distressing and I feel doubly bad that I enjoyed the story so much!

30 MeAndBaby { 01.12.10 at 7:36 pm }

I feel bad for the ChickieNob but that Fuck-Silly part made me laugh out loud!! Hysterical!

31 Bea { 01.16.10 at 6:24 pm }

That’s hilarious and at the same time – your poor daughter. I do hope she learned about rolling with things. It’s so easy to forget how important some stuff can be at that age, and perspective is a hard act even as an adult.


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