Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Jewish Girl Does Christmas -- a continuing story

December 1st is the start of my favorite time of year. For some reason, I channel the stress into more vigorous elf-ing and suddenly I'm smiling instead of grumbling. It's all about the love.

Nannie is my inspiration, my role model, my raison d'etre in the Christmas department. And yes, I know that raison d'etre means reason for being..... it's totally true that I would never have come up with the concept on my own.

Growing up on the Jewish end of the street, surrounded by Jewish friends and relatives, participating in Jewish festivities, I never missed Christmas at all. Never lusted for a Christmas Tree, never begged for a Chanukah Bush, never felt excluded or deprived. Santa didn't ask if I was Jewish; I sat on his lap and enjoyed the experience but I didn't mind that he went to Rita's house but not to mine. G'ma let me put snowflakes on the window with decals and some spray-on goo that left dandruff on the rug for months beyond its useful life and I was fine. The 8 days of Chanukah were enough for me.

I enjoyed joining TBG's family for the holiday, but I never really got it until the year TBG asked why we always had a menorah but never a tree. "Go get a tree," the ever agreeable I replied. His face said it all before his mouth could form the words. "But, MOM always got the tree...."

That was my first inkling that there was more to this holiday than was obvious to the casual observer. I'd never seen beyond the marketing and the caroling and the ballet and Scrooge. All of a sudden, though, TBG's entire childhood was present in our 11th floor high rise with the green shag carpet. He wasn't the equal partner in our marriage when it came to this particular issue. I was in charge ..... the little boy he was, the precursor to the man balefully pleading with his big blue eyes ...... there was no denying him.

The next afternoon after work, I walked to the corner lot and bought a tree small enough to carry home. Brought it inside and looked at it. Called Nannie and asked "How does the tree stand up?" Wonderful, loving, kind and perfect woman that she was, there was no laughter. Instead, she was outraged : hadn't they sold me a stand? didn't they realize this was my first tree? She sent me right back to the vendor, and reminded me to put water in the reservoir as soon as I got it home. I kind of wished she had told me to wait til the tree was straight before putting the water in the receptacle, but that green shag carpet hid a multitude of sins, and Christmas tree water was the least of them.

I had stopped at Walgreens before boarding the 151 home that day, and the couch and coffee table were covered with decorations. I had tinsel, I had red and green round ornaments, I had lights... and I put them on the tree in just that order. To be accurate, I put most of it on in that order. While I was able to push the balls past the tinsel, the lights had me stymied. I was cogitating the problem, wondering whether there was a genetic component to my frustration, when TBG walked in the door. His reaction was a mixture of love-surprise-astonishment-and genuine dismay that he had married someone foolish enough to think that the lights, for pete's sake what were you thinking went on last.

It was my first tree. What did he expect?

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