When I converted to Judaism, my rabbi asked if I would be okay with not doing Christmas any more. I replied to her, “I can’t wait!” The holiday held no fascination for me. As a child, I wanted that kind of old-fashioned Christmas, where you go out on Christmas Eve and cut down a small, Charlie Brown type of tree and string it with paper chains and popcorn, with Bing Crosby crooning in the background. It wasn’t like that.
My mom, rest her soul, loved Christmas and tried to make it spectacular every year. It may be that her own experience of the holiday left something to be desired, or maybe she just dug it. In spite of the fact that we didn’t have much money, there were always presents under the tree and stockings full of tangerines, nuts and candy canes. There was also my dad, using the holiday as an excuse to get wasted – like he needed one – and bust up the party. Over the years, Christmas came to mean over-indulging, over-spending, enforced jollity, and exhaustion. Now, it starts sometime in early fall, and people have actually died in stampedes at Wal-Mart on Black Friday. I couldn’t wait to be rid of it.
Still, there are happy memories, like Momma and me making ornaments from scratch, decorating styrofoam balls with sequins and velvet ribbon. Wish I had one of those ornaments now.
One year, when I must have been six or seven years old, I just had to have an electric piano. If you’re old enough, you remember it. It was plastic, pink for girls, blue for boys, and it sat on a tabletop. It was a lot of technology for the time. You could play it, or it would play songs for you. Momma said Santa would bring it to me. A few days before Christmas, I changed my mind … didn’t want the piano any more but something else. The next day, I saw Momma sneaking across the back yard from the next-door neighbor’s house (where she hid our presents), toting a huge box and putting it in her trunk. I think that’s when I figured out there was no Santa Claus.
Even after I converted to Judaism, she couldn’t resist wrapping up eight little presents, one for each night of Chanukah. I told her that was really for kids, but she loved doing it. She’s gone now, and I still don’t miss Christmas. But I do miss her.
Merry Christmas, Momma.