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December 12, 2012

With Christmas less than two weeks away and Channukah in full swing I feel it appropriate to share some holiday moments with you all. Now that I’ve been in New York for almost two weeks I’m finally settled in enough to compose some thoughts.

"the" tree

“the” tree

Whether you are deeply religious, or not at all, chances are the holidays have great meaning to you. Look at the cliched (but actually true) tradition of Jews going to the movies on Christmas. That’s a celebration. That is just as much a tradition as my cousins, aunts, brothers, uncles, and parents all having a long day eating cheese, drinking wine and exchanging gifts in front of a fire.

I can’t remember ever having a Christmas that didn’t involve bread, pasta sauce, cheese, and a birthday cake (my cousin’s birthday is on Christmas). I’ve also always spent Christmas in the Northeast. Either Connecticut, Poughkeepsie, the Hamptons, Vermont, or New Jersey, every year since I can remember, and this year will be different. For the past two years I couldn’t stomach the thought of spending Christmas on the West Coast. The idea of Christmas, to me, meant big coats, bare trees, a possible dusting of snow on the ground, not sunshine, palm trees, and open toed shoes. So despite the hefty price tag and hassle of travel (including a Fly Away bus to LAX last year on December 23rd for a red eye and an almost empty-read: depressing-Christmas Eve flight the year before) I made the trip east for the past two Christmases and, obviously, albeit much earlier, this year as well. But this year I’ll be flying on December 23rd again, but this time to Puerto Rico. Christmas in the Caribbean was never on my wish list, but it feels wrong to complain. So, so very wrong.

So, here are, in no particular order, my favorite holiday memories:

  • Vermont for Christmas. One of us kids received the Dr Seuss book “Fox in Socks” and every member of the family had to go take a turn reading it out loud, as fast as they could. We almost killed my grandmother with the laughter that ensued.
  • My father’s sister had just started dating a new guy and he was fairly soft spoken. As a way to “break him in”, my father put a whoopie cushion on his chair during dinner, when he returned…you know.
  • Someone brought a VHS of Andrea Bocelli live in concert to Christmas, so we spent the entire afternoon watching our parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents cry at the tv while some blind Italian guy sang about death or something.
  • Gag gifts. For at least fifteen years, my father gave out his own set of gifts. Topping the list are: a gift wrapped plastic tire swing for my adult cousin, a catchers mask for his 90 year old mother, a pair of [fake] soiled underpants for the aforementioned soft-spoken man who soon became my uncle, and last year, condoms for everyone. Why? “We’re all adults now”.
  • Five months before she passed away, we had Christmas at my aunts’ house in the Hamptons and everyone came. She was sick, so everyone was required to take their shoes off upon entry. I remember being upset about this because I had just gotten a new pair of Nine West black pumps and I was wearing them with red tights and my denim Miss Sixty skirt (it was 2003) and I was livid to have to remove the most crucial part of my outfit. My cousin had brought a karaoke machine and after dinner we all sat in a circle as everyone performed a song. My aunt and uncle got up and sang many, many Sinatra duets, and they sounded perfect.

Forgive the sappy family stories, but sometimes it’s just nice to retell these stores or relive the moments, just so you don’t forget them. Time to make new memories.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2012 2:51 AM

    Your dad sounds hilarious – by the way. My dad buys me batteries and a tiny bottle of vodka and chapstick!

    I have a few good holiday memories too.

    • The year my brother and I got a mini battery powered Jeep that we could drive. There’s a home movie of this and it’s hilarious. We drove it all around in front of our house – smashing into cars and nearly running each other over.

    • The year we got a toboggan and we took it to my aunt’s cottage to use it and my mom hit a tree and broke it! “Santa gave us that!”

    • The year my brother wrapped my gift in tonnes of layers of electrical tape and newspaper and taped it to the bottom of a really huge box.

    • The morning we woke up to my two cats fighting and my dog chasing them around and the tree knocked over.

    • The year the tree leaked on newly wrapped gifts. I had wrapped my brother’s gift, a white graphic tee, in green tissue paper. We had to wash the shirt three times to get the green stain out before we could re-wrap it.

  2. Jill Cliffer Baratta permalink
    December 13, 2012 12:19 PM

    I love your memories, my dear! There was also the year (c. 1984) Dad gave my mother a bag of mixed nuts. That was funny! (For your friends, my mother was a therapist). That same year, Aunt Jayne got a can of Comet cleanser (she likes things clean), and Ray got some Ray’s Pizza. Haha. It’s funny, but you have made me reflect. I feel like all the years with my children, making the holidays the way we have, has all been like a salve for the most strong memory of my childhood. We celebrated only Chanukah, until we got a little older, in addition to religiously lighting the menorah and hearing my mother sing “On this night, let us light…” mostly off key, we started making stockings for xmas eve. The year my father was in the hospital dying, I remember filling the stockings for my younger brother and sister, with stuff we bought at the drug store after visiting my dad in the hospital. The world looked so warped, between the alternate reality of the hospital, to the normalcy of the drugstore, to the hype of the holidays all around. I can’t explain how weird that all was, except if you’ve ever visited someone in the hospital, you see how reality changes all around you in that environment. There’s an unspoken stress that walks every step with you- call it uncertainty in the world you have come to rely on and expect (I was 11). We grow up and learn that everything changes. People die. Babies are born, and there are new inventions that give us something and perhaps take something else away from us. I wonder what is happening to our natural state of humanity as we have more and more toys and gadgets. None of it will ever cheat death completely, so that will always be our great challenge. George Harrison’s song “The Art of Dying” is a masterpiece. Check it out…. Perhaps this sounds like a real bummer, so I’d better end by saying that there was no greater joy ever than starting my own family, which served in ways I can’t express, to heal all the pains of the past. I love everyone in my family, and love to read your beautiful reflections, Adria. You are a delight! Happy Holidays to all your readers, from Adria’s mom.

  3. December 13, 2012 7:35 PM

    P.S. Your mom is awesome 🙂

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