By far, most e-mail I get at City Weekly comes from commercial ventures or marketing firms and public relations experts hawking everything from a struggling band’s CD to a new line of organic baby food. Each e-mail is rarely distinguishable from the next. Nearly everyone looking for free media puts “story idea” in the subject line. Nearly every one of those e-mails goes in the trash.n
I opened Ioana’s e-mail simply because I liked the look of her name. It looked foreign—which it is—and it looked poetic. Ioana (pronounced Ee-wanna) moved from the town of Timisoara, Romania to Salt Lake County’s Mill Creek area in August 2007 with her husband, Amil, and her two young daughters, Alexandra, now 8, and Iana, now 3.n
Ioana is a psychologist. She works part-time at a state-administered mental health clinic. Amil is a quality control manager at a factory in Salt Lake City. The company has a branch in Timisoara and transferred him to Utah for three years. Ioana tells me they will go back to Romania when Amil’s three years are up. It will be good to see family again.n
The Cupsas like it here—the easy access to skiing, the public hiking trails and definitely, the public schools. “Parents, I find, are to become very involved in their children’s education,” Ioana says. “Parents even have the right to get very demanding with teachers in the schools. Being in a Communist country for a time, you didn’t see this from parents.”n
Ioana is 34. She was 16 when the tyrannical President Nicolae Ceausescu was deposed, tried and executed following the Romanian Revolution of 1989. She has spent her adult life in a much freer Romania. One of the best things about her country, Ioana tells me, is the national government’s pro-family stance. Like many other European countries, Romania supports mothers in staying home for up to two years after childbirth. “You get paid a certain amount of money to leave your job and to stay home with your child. It isn’t the same amount as working, but it is enough to stay home for that important time,” she says.n
These are the things I learned from answering the e-mail of Ioana, the City Weekly reader with the poetic name. But the real reason she contacted me, and the reason I told her I would write about her family has more to do with 8-year-old Alexandra. The Cupsa family is Eastern Orthodox. They celebrate two occasions during December. They mark St. Nicolas Eve on Dec. 5. But they also celebrate Dec. 25 as the birth of Jesus and as Christmas, Ioana says.n
On Dec. 24, Santa Claus makes a visit. In Romania, they call him Mos Craciun. They prepare special food and wait to put up a tree until Christmas Eve. “Not so soon the tree, like here,” Ioana says.n
The celebration part, that’s where Alexandra comes in. There are some practices, you know, that cut across all cultures and international boundaries. Like kids and snooping at Christmas time.n
“This year Alexandra, being curious like I was at her age, discovered some presents for St. Nicolas in our closet at home,” Ioana says. “She looked concerned and when I talked to her I find she has found the presents and says now St. Nicolas will not come.”n
Ioana and Amil talked to her. “We know she is wondering about who is Santa Claus and we encourage her to ask us what she wants to know. And she did. And we answer her honestly,” Ioana says. “And it is OK.”n
And shortly after The Talk—that one that every parent seems to have eventually—Alexandra went to her computer and composed a poem, which after opening Ioana’s Dec. 8 e-mail, I decided to publish.n
nBy Alexandra Theodora Cupsa
Many kids ask the same question: Is Santa Claus real?
nQuiet real. You know, in third grade I had a kid say:
n“There is no such thing as Santa.” Well, you know what?
nHe was half right. What I mean is that he was a little
nright, and a little wrong. The right part about this was
nthat there weren’t any reindeer that could fly.
nAnd a man that drove a sleigh across the whole world.
nAnd the wrong thing about this is that the believing in
nSanta does not stay in your mouth, but in your heart.
nAs much as you need your family, that’s how much the
nWhole wide world needs Santa.
nIf you had put the question: Is Santa Claus real?
nHere is the answer: In our imagination, hearts and minds.