Saturday, December 17, 2005

Chappy Channukah, Yidn!

Memo to Irving "White Christmas" Berlin: How could you?

And here: an autobiographical excerpt from my upcoming memoir:

At Christmastime, I would marvel at the rows of decorations at Woolworth’s: perfect shiny spheres, plastic pine wreaths and snowmen made of Styrofoam and foam canisters for fake snow. I loved coddling the fragile colored spheres, knowing I would never own one. My friend Sonia had a languid French mother who wasn’t Jewish. Her father was a Swiss Jew. They had an ivory baby grand piano and a swimming pool in their house. They also had white carpeting, something that would not have survived half an hour chez nous. Sonia’s mother was beautiful, with bottled blonde hair, dark eyebrows and doe eyes like Catherine Deneuve. She always seemed to be sleeping in her room, because no matter what time of day it was, we had to whisper in that house. Sometimes she would join us for lunch, say a few words, pick on her food, and stare into her cigarette smoke. I had a dad who was half deaf, and a mom who was everywhere at once, so this whispering business was very exotic to me.
These people, who ate filet mignon and baby roast potatoes and drank white wine for lunch, come December, would put up a Christmas tree and a Menorah. So every time the Christmas decorations would appear on the shelves at Woolworth’s, I would start about the tree.
--Why can’t we have a tree, Mom? It’s pretty. It’s fun to decorate.
--Because we’re Jews and Jews don’t put up trees. We have a Menorah.
--At Sonia’s they put up a Christmas tree and a Menorah.
--That’s because the Mom is a goyah. And the kids don’t go to a Jewish school.
I was amazed that you could be both things, Jewish and goyish at the same time. Although my mom frowned on it, to me it seemed like a very good arrangement. You could go to a school with trendy goyim and spend your Saturdays with the Jews. You could have a lush tree and shiny, magnificently wrapped gifts for Christmas like everybody else, and eat the stupid latkes and light the measly candles and play with the puny dreidl too. What was not to like?

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