Tuesday, November 13, 2007

from the waist up

just about the time the frost is on the pumpkins and millions of american turkeys are beginning to fear for their lives in the upcoming holiday season, i used to begin to experience my yearly bout with "gentile envy".

i am jewish and proud of it. for eleven months of the year i had absolutely no problem living my religion and my culture, but come december i felt an overwhelming desire to convert. from my earliest memories i had wanted to be gentile at christmas time. my parents tried to convince me that eight days of channukah were far better than just one day of christmas but i was not a stupid child. how could eight colored candles and some potato pancakes possibly compete with the glory that was christmas. i had absolutely no interest in the father,son or holy ghost. jesus and the virgin mary held absolutely no allure for me but oh my gosh - the tree with it's tinsel and stars, the deep, rich, piney smell that filled the air in the homes of my friends was intoxicating. and can we talk about candy canes, and popcorn and cranberry ropes and fake snow that you could sprinkle all over the floor around the base of the tree and christmas cookies! can we just stop for one minute and think about christmas cookies. yes as a child christmas was a wonderment and to top it off you got to meet santa claus. who ever came up with him was a marketing genius. trying to fend off gentile envy, as a child, at christmas time, was next to impossible.

as i got older, i outgrew santa and while the tree and christmas food still called out to me it became more about fashion. i remember every year in college, just before winter break, all the whitney's and muffy's and tipper's would appear in class each day in a new and fabulous christmas sweater. in retrospect, the sweaters were pretty tacky, but on a long legged, six foot blond shiksa those sweaters spelled fashion heaven for me, as well as yet another christmas tradition i was barred from participating in.

as an adult, i used to wander the streets of the upper east side at night, at christmas time. i would stare longingly into the townhouses of the rich and famous watching from afar their holiday celebrations. the women in long black velvet skirts and white silk blouses and the men in plaid dinner jackets. with a fire going in the fireplace and the ten foot tall tree in the corner of the room these homes were out of a christmas catalog - often complete with silver punch bowls and maids, in uniforms, doling out egg nog.

a few year ago, i was relating my christmas fantasy to a good, gentile friend of mine and she started to laugh. it seems that, according to her, what i saw from the street in all the townhouse windows was only part of the picture - from the waist up. what i didn't see, she told me, was grandma passed out under the dining room table with a bottle of scotch cradled in her arms and aunt missy and aunt taffy in the kitchen having a knock down, drag out over who was the rightful owner of an heirloom teapot and dear old dad doing the nanny in the upstairs linen closet.

what a revelation. i was cured. i guess it's true. no matter what religion we are, deep down, we are all the same - CRAZY!!


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