During the holiday season, my favorite time of the year, my mind always wanders back to a favorite holiday story about my daughter, Lizzie.
Our family lived in a wonderful home in Honolulu, Hawaii. We had two dogs and two cats and our home was filled with noise and laughter as our daughter's friends of all nationalities and religions ran in and out as though our home was theirs as well. But there was one time of the year when Lizzie felt left out by all the rest: Christmas. She wanted be like her friends and celebrate Christmas with a tree all lit up and aglow with presents underneath.
The problem for Lizzie was that her family celebrated Chanukah and her friends' families celebrated Christmas. I explained the significance behind the two holidays through a story. But this darling daughter of mine could not be consoled, and so began the three-year saga of Lizzie and her Christmas trees.
The first year, she took loving family pictures out of our family album and taped them on the wall in our home in the shape of a Christmas tree. The "picture tree" was taped very low to the ground with presents she made for us, even for our dogs and cats, lying on the carpet under the "picture tree!" I could not believe my eyes! With the pictures of us smiling and holding hands in the design of a Christmas tree, we lit the Hanukkah candles. We told Hanukkah stories and sang Hanukkah songs and passed out presents. I was smiling to myself and allowed her to leave her "picture tree" on the wall, praising her creativity, but explaining her Jewish heritage dating back five thousand years. She listened and asked questions.
The next year, I was in for a bigger surprise. At dusk, as I drove into our driveway, through the window, I noticed red, green and white twinkling Christmas lights flashing on and off. Lizzie had stood on a ladder and decorated my large indoor palm trees to look like Christmas trees! Again, I was speechless and could not help smiling and thinking to myself, "This daughter of mine has determination and spunk -- great qualities if channeled properly."
I came into the room smiling and laughing with presents tucked under each arm to hand out after we lit our Menorah. Sitting down with Lizzie, I explained to her that having different religious beliefs does not set her apart from her friends, and suggested she invite as many as she wanted the next night when we lit our Menorah and I would tell them the story of Hanukkah and she could hand out little gifts. She happily agreed. And so we did and it was a great night and I could see that Lizzie was happy and felt proud of who she was.
I thought the "Saga of the Christmas Trees" had been put to rest, but I was mistaken because the next year...
I noticed nothing was lit up in our home at Christmas. That is, until I went upstairs to tuck Lizzie in and kiss her goodnight. To my surprise, I saw a tiny, live Christmas tree on her nightstand all lit up and aglow with lights flickering on and off. I smiled to myself as I sat down on the edge of her bed. She looked up at me with her huge green eyes and said, "I am proud of my heritage, Mom. I am proud of who I am. I just love how happy everyone is during the holidays and I love my little live tree with its flickering lights." "I understand Lizzie. I totally understand. For you see, the holidays are my favorite time of the year too -- the joy of giving and laughter and family togetherness." And with that, I gave my daughter an extra big hug, turned off her lights and my last image was of Lizzie lying next to her little tree all aglow in its special place next to her bed.
The next year, there was no tree!
With that I'd like to wish you all a happy start to the holiday season!