Thanks, but I’ll Pass on the Santa Stamps
I was rushing through the aisles of Stop and Shop on my lunch hour last Friday, having made up my mind to cook a traditional Ashkenazi Hanukkah dinner on the auspicious occasion of meeting my daughter’s boyfriend’s family for the first time. I was hosting them the next night and opted for a crowd-pleasing menu: potato soup, brisket, latkes, applesauce, and a colorful salad.
It was the fifth day of Hanukkah, and I had to be at my synagogue at 6:15 that Friday evening for our annual latkes and dessert party. It’s a popular event, and as temple president, the expected high turnout of young families soothes my fretful worrying about luring young families to services. Every family brings their own hanukkiyah, and as we sing the blessings and light the candles together, I savor Hanukkah’s miracle: a room overflowing with congregants.
Friday afternoon, I stood in Stop and Shop and chatted with the young butcher about my menu for Saturday night. When I asked him to cut one more piece of brisket for me, I was pleasantly surprised by his friendliness. He was especially curious about the side dishes I was serving with the meat. I was in a hurry to get going, and quickly explained I was cooking a traditional Hanukkah dinner for special company.
In the checkout line, I debated whether to take the additional time to go to another store for fresh flowers and a new tablecloth. As my groceries moved down the conveyor belt, I glanced down at my shopping list. The last item, barely legible, said “stamps.” Hmmm, should I drive a few blocks to the post office for a choice of stamps or buy the good old American flag “Forever” stamps they always have here in the grocery store?
As my last item was rung up, I asked the cashier for a sheet of postage stamps. After I’d paid, she opened the drawer and handed me the stamps.
In a split second I saw that I was holding "Sparkling Holidays" stamps, which featured the classic images of Santa Claus by artist Haddon Sundblom. I held them out to the cashier.
“Can I exchange these for the American flag stamps?”
“No, these are all we have,” she said.
“Well, I don’t want these.” And then I heard myself add, “I don’t celebrate Christmas.”
The young woman on line behind me and the cashier looked at each other and then back at me.
“You’ll have to go to Customer Service for a refund,” the cashier said.
In earlier days, my younger self might have avoided any fuss and simply hurried out – but on that fifth day of Hanukkah, smiling Santa stamps in hand, I wheeled my grocery cart of brisket (and an extra box of Hanukkah candles) to Customer Service.
“Why?” asked the customer service woman behind the counter.
“I usually buy the flag stamps, but you don’t have them today,” I said politely. She was silent. “I don’t celebrate Christmas,” I explained.
She summoned a supervisor.
“She doesn’t want them because she doesn’t celebrate that,” she told the supervisor.
I stood quietly. As the customer service woman handed me a refund for the Santa stamps, I thanked her sincerely for her help and headed home.
Sure, my eyes welled up as I sliced 15 onions for my brisket – but I was, in fact, in good spirits. With the brisket in the oven, I picked up the U.S. Postal Service Christmas mailer from my stack of mail and saw that the words printed on its cover read, “The magic of Santa’s workshop, delivered to your home.”
I headed to my computer and went to their website, where I leisurely browsed the collection – and happily ordered my American flag stamps (plus a pack of Ezra Keats’ Snowy Day stamps) to be delivered to my home instead, thank you very much.