Every year at this time ever since I’ve been a writer, I have written about my Christmas envy. How I wished I could go to my attic or my basement and get out the big box of decorations. How I’d be careful of the crystal star that had been passed down from my great-grandmother, generation to generation. How every ornament would have meaning; the misshapen papier-mâché balls my kids made in third grade, the felt mini-bowl of red and green cherries my maiden Aunt Florence (who wasn’t really my aunt, but we called her aunt) had sewn, the metal old-fashioned sled with the paint half chipped off from my father’s boss’s wife. I always wrote how hard Christmas morning was, when my sister and I, the only Jewish kids in the neighborhood, dreaded going outside and having everyone so animated and playing with their new toys, the refrain of “what’dja get, what’dja get” ringing in our ears.
My parents tried to make Hanukkah comparable, but for one thing, most of the time they worked through the holiday, and when they did get home early enough and light the menorah, gave us little trinkets they had rushed into a Walgreens to buy (Bonnie Doon knee socks and 49¢ paperbacks). Instead of being grateful, I remember trying to act surprised and happy, so they wouldn’t feel as bad as I felt.
I thought those memories, and my Christmas envy, and my fantasy about going down to the basement or up to the attic for the magic that was stored there, would never end. But this year an odd thing is happening. For once I don’t have envy and longing, I have fear and sorrow.
Instead of listening to holiday music (I always play Ella Fitzgerald’s “A Swinging Christmas”), I am listening to reports of the big two of our 110 wars around the world.
I am hearing how anti-Semitism is on the rise, and our new Speaker of the House equates abortion with the Holocaust, and that in Rachel Maddow’s new book, she talks about how Hitler was inspired by Henry Ford, and actually had a picture of him in his office, not the other way around, as I had always thought. And then there’s Vermont. Three college kids brutally attacked because they’re Palestinian?
I watched a segment on “60 Minutes” of Ukrainian widows and their children trying to heal.
And when I look at the garden centers filled with every size of tree, and I imagine them as potential joy waiting to receive their sparkle, my husband, an occasional bah-humbugger, says, instead of planting trees, we’re cutting them down! This is the same guy, I kiddingly (but not so kiddingly) call the Energy Czar, as he continues to quote António Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, about climate change: “We’ve entered the gates of hell.” “There’s no planet b,” my poor husband moans and intones.
As much as I give him negative monikers, he actually is my Perspective Guru.
I agree the world is in such a mess, so this year I am asking myself, Do I really want to spend any more time worrying about how I didn’t get to celebrate the romantic, glittery holiday, and how (boo-hoo) I didn’t get to hang stockings, and all my other complaints about this holiday season?
Besides, we don’t have either a basement or an attic.