COVID-19 AND THE CHANUKAH MAN

Life in 2020 had been terrible for Ben Steinberg in so many ways he couldn’t count them all. He had lost his Mom, and his wife had succumbed to a serious illness. He hated saying the word that began with the letter ‘’C ‘’ because it made him angry. Why with all the modern medicine and technology available in the world was there no cure? Now on top of everything else, there was Covid.

The only thing that kept Ben going was his seven-year-old daughter Sarah. She was his world. She looked like her Mother, LC and she was wise beyond her years. Sarah attended Sunset Heights Public School and Ben did everything in his power to allow her to have some sort of normalcy.

Sunset Heights had provided a portal for online learning, and while it wasn’t great for socializing, it did allow for education to continue and to create a sense of consistency. Sarah loved her classes and it wasn’t long before she knew how to Zoom with her friends. Ben thought that Sarah’s generation was going to be very proficient when it came to technology.

Ben’s best friend was his cousin Annie. She was a terrific person and when LC had passed, Annie and her husband Jerry had been more supportive than he could have ever imagined. The other important person in Ben’s life was Tita who had been Sarah’s Nanny since the day she was born. Tita was a lovely woman who was a big part of the family. She made most of the meals and was dedicated to Sarah.

One afternoon after finishing school and talking with her friend Chrissy, Sarah walked over to Ben who was working at his desk, and tapped him on the knee. ‘’Daddy, my friend Chrissy said that Santa Claus is going to come down her chimney and give her presents. She said he comes to her house every year, why Daddy doesn’t Santa come here?’’

It was the first time Ben had to think about Santa Claus and Christmas and Chanukah. He and LC had taken Sarah to the mall every year to sit on Santa’s knee but they had never thought much about it as she was young and was only really interested in presents. ‘’Um, Honey, we don’t have Santa visit because he is busy visiting all the different boys and girls and he has a lot of work to do, so instead, we get a visit from The Chanukah Man. ‘’

Ben almost burst out laughing when he saw the look on Sarah’s face. ‘’Who is this Chanukah man?’’ LC had always been the smooth dancer who could answer any question with a quick and believable response. Ben wasn’t sure he could pull it off. ‘’The Chanukah Man works with the little Menschies and they make presents for all the Jewish boys and girls. Santa starts at the North Pole and The Chanukah Man starts at the South Pole. Santa uses Reindeer for his sled and The Chanukah Man uses a super-powerful self-driving sleigh to deliver his gifts. He passes Santa over Australia and they both wave at each other stop and have a hot chocolate together and then head off to give out their presents.’’ Ben wondered if Sarah was buying it. She was smiling and processing the information. ‘’What does The Chanukah Man wear, I know Santa wears a red suit and has a white beard.’’ Ben smiled, The Chanukah Man has a Blue Suit and also has a long white beard.’’ Sarah seemed satisfied with the answer.

She left the room and Ben got back to work. Two minutes later Sarah was back. ‘’Daddy, Does the Chanukah Man visit our House eight times?’’ Ben couldn’t believe how smart his daughter was. She had remembered that the Festival of Chanukah was eight days long. ‘’ Ben stood up and reached down and pulled Sarah up to him and gave her a kiss on the cheek. ‘’Yup, the Chanukah Man comes eight times and brings eight different presents.’’ Sarah unleashed a huge smile. ‘’Oh, Daddy, I have to go tell Chrissy and Tita. I’m going to wait up for him every night. I am so happy Daddy. Will the Chanukah Man come down the chimney like Santa?’’ Ben was in trouble, he didn’t know exactly how to answer. ‘’The Chanukah Man is really smart, he comes in different ways. I don’t know if anybody has ever seen him. He just leaves his gifts and takes off, he’s a very quiet guy.’’ Sarah grinned. ‘’I’m going to see him Daddy’’ and she ran off.

The next day Sam waited till Sarah was asleep and Skyped Annie. He explained the story of The Chanukah Man and asked Annie for help. ‘’I need a Blue Suit with fur. Something that looks like Santa Claus. Do you have any idea where I can get one? For eight nights, I’m going to turn into The Chanukah Man.’’

Annie told him not to worry, took his measurements, and hung up. Two days later there was a box at the front door. When Ben opened it up, there was the perfect Chanukah Man outfit, including the perfect hat. The next step was making sure all the gifts from Amazon arrived. Ben bought eight small gifts for Tita as he didn’t want her to feel left out.

Sarah conscripted Tita into her plan to see The Chanukah Man. She had to swear to stay awake with Sarah to see The Chanukah Man coming down the chimney. This meant Ben had to wait till Sarah finally fell asleep before he could place the presents. Every morning Sarah yelled with delight when she woke up and saw the gifts.

The schedule became very regular, Eat Dinner, Light the Menorah, watch as Sarah and Tita wearing their pajamas found comfortable places to sleep by the fireplace. Carry Sarah to bed when she was sleeping, put on the Chanukah Man costume and place new presents.

On the final night which coincided with Christmas Eve, Ben followed the same schedule as he had every night and when Sarah fell asleep he gently lifted her up and put her into her bed. He then went into his room and put on the Blue Chanukah Man outfit and carried the presents downstairs. He was just putting Sarah’s final gift down when he heard a noise behind him. He slowly looked and there was his daughter. She had a stunned look on her face. ‘’You are here, the Chanukah Man is here. I have to go tell my Daddy. You came to my house and I saw you. I have to tell Daddy and Tita.’’ Sarah ran up the stairs and Ben didn’t know what to do. He didn’t want to disappoint his daughter, but he was caught. He heard Sarah yelling ‘’Daddy, Daddy’’ and it was very difficult not to answer her. Then it hit him, he had an idea. He ran into the kitchen and pulled off the beard, and the outfit, and ran to the laundry room. He opened the dryer and there was nothing in it, but fortunately, there was a sweatsuit in the washing machine. It was still damp, but it would do and he threw it on. He next heard his daughter waking her Nanny. ‘’ Tita, Daddy is missing and The Chanukah Man is in the house.’’ Tita seemed a little nervous as she and Sarah headed upstairs.

Ben waited a couple of minutes and followed. He listened as Sarah described The Chanukah Man in great detail to Tita. There was a feeling in his heart that made him want to explode. He loved his daughter and her innocence and excitement were like tonics for the soul.

He asked what was going on and Sarah went into detail one more time about The Chanukah Man in the Blue Suit. Finally, after Sarah, Tita and Ben shared some milk and cookies it was decided that they should all go to sleep. Ben’s heart swelled when he took his daughter to her room and she ran over to the window. She looked up at the stars ‘’Have a Safe trip Chanukah Man, see you next year, Thanks for the great presents.’’

Ben tucked her in and sat at the side of the bed for a second looking at his daughter and feeling so proud to be her Father. He whispered ‘’I love you pumpkin, have very sweet dreams. She looked back at him with eyes closed and she whispered ‘’You too, Chanukah Man.’’

Alan Schwarz loves life. He is the founder of JAMS Productions, a television production company based in Toronto . His passion is writing.

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