Jay Frankston and A True Christmas Story

christmasEverything ties back to Christmas–sometimes in a neat little package.

Yesterday, I was listening to “This I Believe,” a “public dialogue about belief–one essay at a time.” This week’s featured essay, titled “Speak Up” is a personal statement about Jay Frankston’s youth, a Jewish child in Paris during the Holocaust.  He echoes what others have said about how violence and cruelty spreads.  It is the silence of the masses that allows the evil to grow.

The essay is beautiful, but stranger than his non-fiction, is the brief biography at the end–Jay Frankston spent most of his adult life portraying Santa Claus in New York City.  His book, “A Christmas Story:  A True Story” is easily accessible to read and/or purchase on the web.

I listened to the entire 20-minute autobiographical story last night.  Why a Jewish man would choose to portray and promote Christmas is curious indeed.  I won’t tell the whole story, but the part I liked best was when he met a little girl who said she didn’t receive Christmas presents because she was Jewish.  Frankston whispered, “I’m Jewish, too.”

I’m curious to find a photograph of him as Santa because he explains that he wore a rubberized mask, which must have been uncomfortable.

This sent me to the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame.  (Jeremy mentioned this in our last podcast.)  Mr. Frankston has not yet been inducted, so I’m adding an official nomination to the list of Yule Log 2013 plans. . .

The gift of a thank you note

I love the personal statements published on This I Believe, and the December 30 broadcast was an essay by Michelle Lee entitled “The Act of Giving Thanks.”  You can listen to her broadcast and read the essay here on the This I Believe website.  Although her message is a broader statement of the importance of giving thanks and a firm assertion that “good manners are the cornerstone of a quality community,” she begins her essay describing the family ritual of writing thank you notes for Christmas gifts on December 26. “At the latest.”

When the boys were young, we instituted the policy that an opened gift could not be removed from the living room and enjoyed until the thank you note had been written.  This caused quite a few groans, and, I admit, a hierarchy of thanks—toys first, clothing (after some nagging) later.  Our rule is that minimum effort is a three-sentence formula:  (1) Thank the person for the specific gift.  (2) Describe how the gift will be enjoyed or used.  (3)  Close with a sentence that gives meaning to the relationship. (Ex. “I liked how you and I watched basketball after Christmas dinner, and I’m sorry you don’t appreciate Duke as much as I do.”)  That last sentence often stumped them for a little while.

Lee describes that this ability to give written thanks has “secured her popularity.” I cannot say that years of practice (since they could hold a pencil and draw a picture) have turned my men into enthusiastic thank you card writers, but this I believe:  years of the practice will someday make perfect.  In early December I was surprised by a Christmas card from Ian and his girlfriend, and inside, Ian wrote a personal note to me, a small triumph!