12/2/12

The Reason for the Season . . .

When we were kids we had absolutely majestic Christmases. We'd get one gift each before we went to bed on Christmas Eve and then we'd sleep like babies knowing that, when we did bother to wake up, there'd be TWO rooms FULL of toys, treats, and gifts waiting for us downstairs.

We would do Santa stockings, then do Santa gifts and then, after a full breakfast, move on to the gifts from each other and our parents. There were five of us. It could take three hours to get all the gifts open. No. We weren't rich. My parents were public educators. Middle class America. And I don't mean this was the "thing" until my brothers and I turned 9 or 10 or until the youngest did. Nope. It went on until we graduated from college at the age of 22. 14 years later, I've still NEVER disavowed Santa because my mother and father assured us that as long as we believed, he would come.

Nope. We did all this because my parents loved the proverbial shit out of us and enjoyed little more than telling and showing us. Fast forward to my current conundrum . . . my mother wants my CHRISTMAS shopping list.

Let me clarify (I may/not have mentioned this before in this forum) - I'm in the process of converting to being a full-fledged, even-more-neurotic Jew. My parents are aware of and fully bless this (as long as I have a spiritual pursuit and relationship with G-d, they are happy, happy, happy). Christmas, while it has served me very, very well all these years, is not something I will be celebrating anymore except in the context of my paternal relationship with Ava. And, I guess, my parental and sibling duties to my family. But where does that end?

I'll give THEM Christmas gifts. I'll be excited for THEM as my niece Jocelyn toddles down the stairs to replicate (on a much more appropriate and sensible scale) what we had as children. I'll ask my father how his choir sang at the Midnight Mass. I'll be sure to ask my mother how her brother and sister and families are doing once she's had her Holiday calls with each of them. All this is fine.

But I do not WANT a Christmas present. My mother is fine with a Jewish son but is NOT okay with a son who doesn't get a Christmas gift (or pile of them). I know, I know . . . tell her to get me Hanukkah gifts (one gift would be appropriate, in my opinion - it is NOT the same thing/level of holiday for the uninitiated). She'll probably split the difference. Send me a gift before the 16th but wrap it in Super Christmassy paper (Baby Jesus doing cartwheels while Santa rides a motorcycle over crucifixes and all the angels shower the world with name-brand candy bars). I tried to explain and tried to let her explain but she seems to genuinely feel they MUST give me gifts. They HAVE to honor me with physical things, I think. My mother may or may not have (she did) intimated that without presents the whole thing doesn't matter. I argued back that the REAL reason for the season - Hanukkah, Christmas, or neither - is the family, the intentions, the thoughts, and some time of reflection and appreciation. She laughed, dismissed, said something funny, and told me to send her my list ASAP.

I'll allow all this. Transitions take time and this is the first year of all this. I'm sure by 2019, this will be old hat and I'll be happy to get a bag of sugar-free gelt, a package of 45 candles, and a new kippah (or whatever she latches on to).