Oh, Santa Baby. Do we need couples counseling this year?
You and I have been in an indescribably on-again-off-again relationship for too long. I've been writing about our tortured love for how many years? In 2011 it was off. 2012, back on again.
Now, it's 2013 -- and I feel as though we're friends with benefits. It's just not enough. Sure I had Adam Sandler for Thankschanukah, but you can't intersperse dreidels with Christmas cookies and call it one big happy holiday. Thankschanukah is gone, and as my friend's 3-year-old said as she wept for a Christmas tree (when reminded of her joyous Hanukkah celebration) "But I'm so over Hannukuh!"
Ah, Santa, sweetheart -- you torture me so. You've taken the place of Kathy Murphy (who hissed these words at me when I was nine years old: You'll ever ever get into Heaven, no matter what you do. Here I am again, knocking on the pearly gates. (Because that's what Christmas can look like when you're child's nose is pressed up against those gleaming Macy's windows. Heaven on earth.)
In 2012, my therapist had enough. He told me I'd been whining about my unrequited love for too long. "It's not him; it's you," Dr. Dreidel said. "Enough. Get over it. You want him so bad? Go after him." So I celebrated. I wriggled back into your fuzzy red arms. But really, were you there for me?
I know, baby. There are many (maybe most) Jewish people who grow up warm and secure in their faith, those for whom the eight days of Hanukah don't have to compete with Christmas: Jewish nurses and firefighters who take Christmas Eve shifts to ensure that their Christian brethren are home for the holidays. These are the lucky Jews with long standing traditions of Chinese food and a movie on Christmas.
But darlin', I've never been one of them.
There were no Hanukkah (I can't even figure out how to spell it right) traditions in my house, so I longed for that Rockefeller Center sparkle. My sister and I even hung stockings one year. (What were we thinking? That the keys to the kingdom lay in our old limp socks?) Mom was out on a date; we stayed up as late as possible, until, exhausted, we went to bed giddy with the prospect of what would be spilling out the tops of those socks.
Umm, I think my mother thought we'd once again left our dirty clothes around the house, because those damn socks were in the hamper when we woke.
As a teen, I went out with a similarly disposed Jewish friend and bought a pathetic Charlie Brown tree on Christmas Eve and smuggled it up to her room, decorating it with God knows what. Long dangling hippy earrings? Her mother was not happy. Other years I spent a Christmas with my best friend's family, trying to be as adorably Christian as possible, praying they'd invite me back. Finally, I left home and gave you up for a few blessed too-hip-for-holidays years.
Then I became a mother. Christmas reared its head. I was determined that my children would have a big old piece of the American pie. Why shouldn't you love us, Santa? We lived with a non-Jewish couple in a rambling Victorian House and I fell into Christmas as though I were Jesus' sister. Religion played no role for any of us: it was simply an orgy of food, presents, lights, good will, and Christmas stockings so full we needed overflow bags. You were there, Santa baby. (Though there was always a fly in my Christmas pie. Friends, who hadn't stepped in a church since they were baptized, exclaimed as though I were crashing their personal kingdom: "you celebrate Christmas?")
The kids got older. Christmas became firmly entrenched, including building up our own holiday family heirlooms (straight from the Crate & Barrel collection.) Still, I felt as though I were crashing Jesus' birthday party. At a certain point I began to get that Barbra Streisand in "The Way We Were" feeling with you, Santa. You were my goyishe Robert Redford who I'd never truly possess. You'd hang out with me, for years even, but you'd never really make a commitment.
I'd never get your ring.
The kids got even older. I shrunk Christmas. I got a little standoffish with you. A miniature rosemary tree replaced the light-crusted evergreen. Orgy of presents stayed, but some years I'd name them presents.
But it wasn't enough, Santa baby. I just couldn't quit you. I don't have the will to spend the day at the movies. Chinese food isn't enough after years of licking peppermint sticks. It was good when we met up last year, right? But I'm tired of our back and forth, honey. I'm jonesing for you again.
I'm getting those old Santa Blues. I put that weird aluminum tree up -- the one I tell my husband is hung with Stars of David.
But we know, right? No one will be the wiser if I throw a bit of glitter in with the Chinese food. Come on in, Santa. One bite of brisket never hurt anyone.