Adventures With Santa: Braddock, Pennsylvania

Santa visits the Fettermans.

Santa headed southeast from Pittsburg, stopping briefly at the Free Store founded by Gisele Fetterman in Braddock, Pennsylvania, dropping off a load of previously loved bicycles.

He’d followed the calling of service of Gisele since she was a young woman. Relocating to Pennsylvania to work beside her now-husband, John Fetterman, while he was Mayor of the town; then supporting him as Lieutenant General of the state as Pennsylvania’s Second Lady; still by his side today, supporting his successful run as State Senator.

Santa knew a good egg when he saw one, and he couldn’t wait to meet the woman beloved in her state. So loved is she that the mantra, “Vote for Gisele’s husband,” was commonly heard throughout the campaign.

He was also aware she was honest about her medicinal use of cannabis for chronic pain after a series of accidents throughout her life, advocating that her state legalize the plant alongside her husband.

At Home with History

Santa steered Rudolph toward the rooftop of the Fetterman’s home.

So proud of his state’s history of steel, Sen. Fetterman converted the former Superior Motors building across the street from the Edgar Thomson Steel Works into his family home. The mill was the first to lay railroad tracks across the country, and the pride factor for Fetterman was strong.

Superior Motors was one of the country’s first indoor car dealerships, with an old Chevy needing to be removed via a crane from their soon-to-be-home.

Gisele Fetterman lay next to her sleeping husband thinking about the holiday at hand, her children fast asleep, her husband’s newly-appointed position as State Senator and all that implied for the future of her family and their beloved state.

Not a creature was stirring when she heard a bump in the night on the rooftop.

Glancing over at her husband’s 6’8” frame, giggling at the sight of his feet protruding off the end of the bed, with his head covered by a blanket as he slept soundly, she tiptoed up toward the rooftop to see what was the matter.

Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she could barely believe what she saw.

“Ho, ho, ho!” didn’t mean to startle you,” Santa said, gingerly stepping down and out of the sled, as the reindeer made themselves comfortable on the expansive rooftop.

“I’m not opposed to miracles,” Gisele said with an unsure smile. “Just give me a minute to take it all in.”

“Well, I’m no miracle, just spreading the love of giving, just like you,” he replied. “My hope is that you are as excited to meet me as I am to meet you. You are one of our people. Your selfless and loving ways have not been missed by my missus either.”

Santa pulled out a small dropper bottle of tincture from his pocket and offered it to Gisele, who was now fondly stroking Rudolph’s nose.

“You probably haven’t thought of this, but my lower back can get a bit sore sitting upon this wooden sled,” he said with a seriousness in his voice that surprised her. “The elves started growing hemp up at the North Pole, and Mrs. Claus makes this tincture. She wanted you to have a bottle.”

The Hemp tincture made by Mrs. Claus, was made using high cannabidiol (CBD) and low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) compound counts, and was hybridized by the late, great, Lawrence Ringo of Southern Humboldt County at the top of Northern California.

Ringo hybridized low THC plants together for his own chronic back pain, into what he referred to as the “God plant,” as the original cannabis plant said to be found in Holy Anointing Oil from the Bible did not have the high THC count we have today. Yet, the plant referred to as hemp, still has the full cannabinoid and terpene profile of the cannabis plant as a superfood, and highly medicinal without the high.

“Both Frankincense and Myrrh are highly medicinal,” Santa informed. “Not just incense for the Baby Jesus. I don’t think most people understand that about most plants, or why they brought medicine to the child in the manger.” 

Gisele understood this and graciously accepted the small bottle with gratitude. But, she was also a bit stunned. It was a lot to take in. Santa, a cannabis advocate – the Elves as farmers, Mrs. Claus an apothecary, weed in Holy Annointing Oil? 

This man in a red suit flying through the air offered up more than physical gifts on Christmas Eve, she thought – pondering gifting him extra cookies by the hearth next year.

She also knew in her heart, if her gentle giant of a husband could win State Senate – wearing his signature sweatshirt, perennial shorts in the winter and sneakers, then anything is possible. Hell, her very existence in this life, in this country, was a crapshoot to begin with.

Gisele Fetterman, Courtesy of Diana Markosian

Silent Night, Holy Night

“I read that you have three strikes against you,” Santa continued. “You began your life in this country as an illegal immigrant – you are a woman, and a cannabis patient.”

“Yes, that’s right – with these thick eyebrows, they just don’t know what to make of me,” she laughed, as Santa chuckled along. “But, I believe that education is everything when it comes to cannabis. It’s been misunderstood for a very long time.”

“So many have realized the plant as medicine, it’s true,” he pondered. “When you think about it, I too am illegal. Each year I cross borders for the greater good of making children happy by giving illegally imported gifts! I pay no tariffs. My reindeer aren’t even documented to be in the U.S., but here we are. There are double standards everywhere, in every country.”

The two had a good laugh at Santa’s perspective, and Gisele had to agree, they were quite the pair. 

The stars in the sky shined brightly above Braddock, as the two took in this very special Christmas Eve together.

“I’m thankful for you, Santa,” Gisele said lovingly. “And for Mrs. Claus and the Elves – and these beautiful animals. And a plant that helps us both.” 

“And I’m thankful for you and your good works,” he repled. “‘If everyone gives, no one goes without.’ That’s what Mrs. Claus always reminds me – especially on those days that seem darkest of all. It’s not easy being misunderstood in this world. It’s not easy watching people go without. And it’s not easy watching people suffer in pain, because this plant isn’t available to them. Thank you for your advocacy, Gisele.”

In the distance they could hear the bells of Saints Peter & Paul Byzantine Catholic Church ringing in the blessings of Christmas Eve. The steel mill across the street was quiet, as Gisele’s family slept peacefully in their beds, unaware of the magic taking place up on the roof.

Santa got back up on his sled and commanded his crew to head toward the City of Love, Philadelphia.

“Wish us luck, we are heading right into Kensington,” Santa said with a wave, blowing a kiss to the State Senator’s wife. “Oh, and you have a little surprise at the Free Store, we dropped off some bicycles!”

“God Bless you, Santa – and God bless the souls of Kensington,” Gisele waved back, then put her hands together in prayer, lifting them up to the jolly man. Then she blew a kiss towards him into the twinkling Braddock night sky.

“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!” Santa called back.

For more information on the Free Store of Braddock visit, 

For more information on newly elected State Senator John Braddock visit,

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