Oh my sisters…. Here I sit trying to compose for you the ultimate witty banter to enrich the week and help me keep up my end of the bargain. We’ve been together a while, my sisters and I like to take this time to look back on the years gone by.
Forgive me my girlfriends if I deviate a bit from the science this week and just ponder on the past....
Is that not what this holiday season brings? A time for reflection? A time for gratitude? A time to look through your closet and ponder what possessed you to think those purple Capri pants would look good on you?
The holidays are always an interesting time. There are those who stress over the search for perfection-
-The perfect gift for so-and-so
-The perfect turkey dinner
-The perfect date for New Year’s
-The perfect sale price on that Mary Katrantzou cape that I have been lusting after since August….
Then there are those of us who just resign ourselves to the madness and try and put our heads downs and make it through….
-Dinner with relatives who insist on judging us for our life choices
-Work parties with paper cups that leave us feeling as empty as the buffet table
-A credit card bill that demands we sell a kidney in order to meet its needs.
I wonder if we might take a moment between the hunt and the hurt to just pause and smile at our good fortunes. Can we turn this time of year around and just laugh it all off as a time we spend with the people we love in the hopes of having more time to spend with the people we love?
When I was a kid Christmas was a time to envy other kids. You see we did not celebrate Christmas. (for once I can Identify with Michael Jackson). I remember watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special with a sense of longing. Why couldn’t we have the whole presents under the tree thing? The whole thing was just so pretty… so festive. There I was dreaming of a white Christmas with a longing the likes of which I only feel when I’m watching Paris Fashion week.
I remember one December when I was about five or six years old. My father took me to the mall. We lived in Winnipeg and it was winter in 1977. If you wanted to go for a walk you went to a mall. There was no global warming. It was minus 80 degreees. You walked outside and your face fell off. Besides…. they had a Laura Secord candy store and they gave out free samples.
I would prance around in my 17 layers of winter gear (we lived on the praires afterall) sheltered from the minus 40 windchill as I shed one layer after another between stores trying desperately not to lose my latest pair of mittens.
We walked from store to store- my father and me looking for whatever. I would try not to sweat to death in long underwear and he would try not to lose me amidst the pre-Christmas shopping madness.
And that’s when I saw him…. The man in the red suit.
There in the mall he sat all shiny and new with a bunch of elves and a castle. You sat on his lap and asked for shit and it was delivered to you a few weeks later. Santa was my first glimpse of what online shopping would be like many years later….. And he gave out candy.
Shit. This dude was good.
“Dad”, I asked wiping the sweat from my face and removing another turtleneck, “Can we get a Christmas tree? Can I make a list and you give me some presents on Christmas?”
“Sorry Alphonse. We don’t celebrate Christmas.”
You see, I’m Jewish. Jews don’t celebrate Christmas. At least most of us don’t. Some of us put up a tree and call it a Channukah bush and give presents for 8 days but really? In my opinion that’s like buying a knock-off Chanel and saying its real.
I should say. My Dad was really good guy.
He sat me down in the mall and we had a talk about how we were of a different religion and Christmas was off the menu. It wasn’t a bad thing- it was just very matter-of-fact. He did not try to make me feel better- like I was missing out on something and he had to make up for it- he was plain and simple- unapologetic.
I tried to get it…. Really I did. My Dad was very kind and tried to let me down easy. It’s not like he pulled me aside and said plainly, “we’re Jewish kid…. Get over it”. But he also did not try to patronize me into thinking that our Channukah would just be enough for me….
You see Channukah really can’t compete. One little menorah and 8 candles can not in any way shape or form compare to the two month long holiday of chocolate covered red and green- let’s light up the joint and set it to music- that is Christmas. Not a hope in hell.
And that is okay. At least now it is. Now that I only have to buy Christmas gifts for a select few and now that as a Jewish doctor I am the hottest commodity in town around the holidays. (You see- my colleagues all want someone to work for them and ever so gracious when I give up my Chinese Food Dinner/Movie night to do so)
And it it was never so bad growing up without the whole Christmas thing- In fact now as I’m older and wiser I understand really don’t know what I was missing…. Partly because I really don’t know what I was missing.
But there was a sense of loss back there in that mall in ’77 when my Dad let me sit on Santa’s lap anyways and I wished for gifts I knew would never come….
Last year I bought myself my first Christmas present. I was, afterall a grown woman…. I figured it had been 41 years and I had gone without for too long. I have a complicated relationship with religion at the best of times and I knew that this gesture was an empty one at best…. But I did it ayways.
I bought myself a fabulous John Hardy necklace wrapped it up and everything. I was working in the ICU in Lethbridge at the time and I put the present under the bedside table in my hotel room before I went to bed on Christmas eve. That morning like eight year olds everywhere I awoke to the wonder of a wrapped present. I unwrapped the necklace, put it on (it was perfect) and went into work.
And life went on….
So here we are another year down. It more than 35 years since my Dad broke it to me gently that Santa was not mine to have or to hold and that sure- I could always wish big for a present- but only on my birthday.
I’ve spent the last twenty something Christmases in a hospital somewhere ringing in the day as if it was any other.