Let it be Xmas
December 23, 2010
Tonight was the most Christmassy I’ve felt in many years, driving around with my Jewish husband and sons to ogle the season’s light displays, Nat King Cole in the CD player crooning “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” and a series of baby Jesus hymns that I try to sing along with but get too teary and quavery to go on. When I was a kid, the Nat King Cole LP came down from the attic along with our Christmas decorations each year, so whenever I play it I am transported to the base of the aluminum tree my family assembled throughout the 70s. I can still smell the bourbon and salmonella-laced eggnog. Oh giant Barbie head with the wire hair I could curl with plastic tongs, how you answered all my yuletide prayers circa 1975!
This holiday descends on me as implacably as seasonal depression, and though I’m uncertain which one heralds the other, I’m learning to embrace both.
The boys shouted “Christmas!” whenever they saw a house festooned. We were even moved to park and get out of the car to shake hands with a guy dressed as Santa in front of his blinking, blazing yard, one of two in his neighborhood that had their own radio broadcasts of music you could tune into while watching the lights flash in synchronicity.
I love the over-the-top mix of Santa, nativity, Grinch, Charlie Brown, Winnie the Pooh, Thomas trains, sleighs, elves, Rudolph, Frosty, even the occasional menorah, though Hannukah came and went early this year, plus strangely seasonal blimps and balloons and airplanes and teeter-totters, and my favorite, en route to my dad’s house, a giant cake with red-piped icing proclaiming “Happy Birthday Jesus!”
My older son knows there is no actual Santa Claus, only the spirit of Santa Claus who nonetheless brings concrete loot to kids, and that that spirit is alive and well, perhaps even restless-bordering-on-poltergeist, in his maternal grandparents and aunt. It wasn’t a Jewish thing to disabuse him of Santa Claus; at age three he was fretting over someone coming into the house while we slept, so I’m the one who broke rank and said it’s just pretend, some mishigas for the goyim. I’m not sure what my younger son believes. He recognized the red-garbed, bearded man as Santa, but declined to shake hands.