T'was the Night of Channukah


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The Pseudo Chanukah Fairy

by Ted Roberts

I know how to communicate with granddaughters. “How ‘bout a nice soup bowl full of fudge ripple ice cream and a Chanukah story?” I ask my 8 year old Sarah.

While I’m planning my pitch and dipping out the tranquilizing ambrosia she says, “Is it a love story, like Purim?”

“Uh, no.”

“Is there a little girl in the story?”

“Hmmm, not exactly.”

“Well, I like stories about little girls.”

“OK, well, how ‘bout a story of a little girl and what happened to her on Chanukah - which, in fact, happens to be her birthday?”

The object of my stratagem sits straight up in her chair; even puts down her spoon, and establishes direct eye contact. She’s ready to listen; I know the signs. So I begin; “Once there was a newly married Jewish couple. Not rich, but happy. Sam was a computer repairman. Esther was a nursing technician. And one day Sam noticed that Esther was smiling more than usual and she glowed with a healthy, happy look. ‘Yes,’ said Esther, ‘we - but mainly me - are gonna have a baby.’

“So, on a brisk day in March, Sam and Esther went to the doctor to check her out - make sure everything was OK. And it was. The doc’s final statement was, ‘This baby could be born on the first candle of Chanukah’. And it was. Esther’s birth pangs started as she touched her match to the first candle. And it was a girl.”

“Just like me,” said my listener.

“Yes, and they named her Sarah.”

“Also just like me,” said Sarah. (This was not an accident - foxy storytellers have bags full of such tricks.)

And on her naming day, friends and relatives, as well as a table full of delicatessen, crowded the small living room of Sam and Esther. Among the crowd was a pretty, young lady with golden locks and a blue pants suit.

“Well, who are you?” asked the new parents.

“I’m the fairy godmother,” said the golden girl as she ate a thick corned beef sandwich and sipped a Diet Pepsi.

“I never heard of a Jewish fairy godmother,” said Sam. (“Me neither,” says my entranced listener.)

“Well,” said Ms. Blue Pants suit, “you probably never heard of a lot of things. What do you want? Want me to use a wand to spread mustard on the pastrami, pickle, and slaw sandwich I’m gonna eat next? Now watch this.” And she pulled a shiny silver dollar out of Sarah’s right ear.

“I’ll tell you what,” said the fairy godmother without a wand or a halo. “I’ll come every year on the first night of Chanukah and bring your child Chanukah gelt - a silver dollar and. . . . ”

Sam interrupted. “Big deal, by the time she’s Bas Mitzvahed it won’t buy a fountain pen.”

“Yeah,” continued the enchantress, but when she’s 21 I’ll bring 21 of those hundred dollar US gold pieces - all collector’s items. But only if, when she’s old enough, she faithfully lights candles every night of Chanukah and models her life after Sarah, Rebeccah, Rachael, and Henrietta Szold.”

That was the deal. And sure enough, every year she came with her Chanukah gelt. They became friends. And finally 21 years later it’s the first night of Chanukah and little Sarah has turned into a beautiful lady with black eyes and curly, soft, brown hair.

“I will, too,” says my granddaughter.

“Right, and here comes the fairy godmother, but without a bag of gold pieces. And whatta story she tells Sarah.”

“Listen,” she says, “I’m not a fairy godmother, but I felt like having a nice corned beef sandwich that night you were born - and I’m pretty good at magic tricks. Want me to do the silver dollar trick again?” It was a total confession.

“Sarah gulped. Whatta disappointment - no gold pieces. But you know what she did? As soon as her non-fairy godmother left, she got out a pad of yellow paper and wrote down the story of the fake fairy godmother; the same story I’m telling you. And after a few months of calling up Hollywood Big Shots, she sold it for a million dollars.”

A couple of minutes of silent spooning up of soupy ice cream followed. “I’ll never forget to light my Chanukah candles,” said my Sarah. Then; “Maybe when I grow up I’ll use this story and write a movie play. After all, the little girl looked like me,” you said.

“Maybe so,” I say, “and when you get that six figure advance, don't forget your poor, old grandfather.


from the December 2000 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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