Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day

by Sara Paretsky

My family moved to Kansas in when I was four; on our arrival, my father became the 10th Jewish male in town, which meant they could have a minyan. We lived in the country, because the town had zoning laws on where Jews and African-Americans could live. As the only Jew in my grade, year after year I had to stand up and explain the story of Hannukah to the class. It just didn't compete with the sentimental birth in the manger. Nor did our menorah compete with the lit-up trees we glimpsed through windows as we drove to our dust- and anger-filled house in the isolated countryside. I read Little Women every year from the age of 7 on; I thought all Gentile household were like the Marches'--filled with warmth and laughter, even grief and tears having a reassuring outcome.

I married an Anglo-Canadian with three sons and a tradition of plum pudding and roast goose worthy of Dickens For years I threw myself into trees and homemade fruit cakes, plum puddings. I roasted barnyards full of geese and ducks. And I discovered the secret of the Gentile Christmas: total exhaustion, occasional meltdown, children who never get the present they were hoping for. A few years ago I stopped the trees I have a creche, where Jesus lies in his manger with his very own menorah, Joseph sports a tallis and yamulke, and Mary is emerging from her Mikvah. I don't light a menorah myself--Hannukah should be celebrated with children, not by a lone adult. I serve Christmas dinner to my grown sons, my beloved granddaughter, and whatever friends are in town--and the plum pudding comes by mail order from a shop in Tacoma. No one seems to notice the difference. It's Boxing Day; I'm exhausted, but not unhappy. My granddaughter is still asleep downstairs. My husband and I are waiting to see what the day will bring.

Happy Boxing Day to all. May the new year be--against all probability--one of peace on this tired, sad planet.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pitiful! I sez ya gets whatcha asks your God for ...

Ed, Chicago

Sandra Ruttan said...

"We lived in the country, because the town had zoning laws on where Jews and African-Americans could live."

It is the little reminders like this that give me some degree of hope... Hope that we really have made some progress against discrimination and racism.

Of course, the reason I'm such a fan of noir is probably because the smidgen of hope is counterbalanced by an excess of pessimism.

Happy Holidays to you, whatever the day brings.

Maryann Mercer said...

Happy Boxing Day to you too! Growing up in one of the southern 'burbs of Chicago, I learned about a lot of the holidays at this time of year. Thought the concept of an eight day one quite nice (and also would have embraced the twelve days of Christmas complete with lords aleaping!). And I'm not sure, but one night's oil lasting eight is pretty much in the miracle department too. Now Boxing Day...I thought that meant either people getting into a ring to punch each other OR putting duplicate gifts back in their wrappings to take to the Return desk at Ward's. Now I know better :o)
I'm hoping for peace, or its beginnings in the New Year as well, and good things for all of us.

Elaine Soloway said...

Hi Sara,

Enjoyed your post and the seasonal dilemma. I found many of us -- especially Jews married to Gentiles --experience the same misheggas. Check out "To Tree or Not To Tree" (Dec. 13) on my blog for examples.

Happy New Year -- minus religious angst.

Elaine Soloway

ab said...

Enjoyed your post, especially the part about giving Jesus a menorah, the mixing. After all, he was Jewish, and as far as I know, all he wanted to do was revise her own religion. Not start a new one.

Sara Paretsky said...

thanks, everyone, even anonymous. AB, thanks for staying connected to us here in Chicago. I hope all is well in Sweden

ab said...

It's a pleasure!
And all is well in Sweden, thanks.