The holidays are always weird for me. Maybe it was always having to choose which parent to spend it with and which parent to be mad it wasn’t them (granted, that was probably more in my head than theirs). Maybe it was that my Jewish grandmother was making Christmas cookies. Or maybe, it was that the standard, portrayed in books and movies, was impossible to achieve in real life. If there wasn’t a house full of friends and family, a roaring fireplace, a beautiful tree under which everyone’s wishes could be found beautifully wrapped, we’d all failed.
Maybe it was just the let down of either not getting what I wanted or that what I thought I wanted wasn't it at all.
There was the Barbie Dreamhouse. I really, really, really wanted that. I didn’t get it. I got the Barbie shopping mall instead. It had a few levels of store-like areas, a hair salon. I tried my hardest to make it into a house, making tissue box furniture upholstered in dainty embroidered and flower-print hankies from my grandma, using tiny perfume bottles placed by tiny windows pushed right up against outlets with night lights turned on. Turned out to be way better than the Dreamhouse could've been.
There was the Benetton sweater. It was the ‘80s and faux-faire isle sweaters imported from the Gap of Italy were all the rage. I saw the box under the tree, the bump of the elastic string around the box under the wrapping paper, just like on the box I had wrapped myself for my sister. It had to contain one of the sweaters from the catalogue I had so helpfully shown my mother.
I oh-so-carefully and oh-so-slowly peeled the paper away, wanting to prolong the suspense of just which one of the sweaters it would be. I painstakingly pulled up the box cover and found……..the green sweatshirt with the words Benetton Beverly Hills printed on it in pink. Hated that sweatshirt. Still love the colors pink and green.
One year, I did the unthinkable. I peeked. I went into my mother’s closet, way in the back and found the wrapped presents with my name on them. I was delighted! U2s “Under a Blood Red Sky”! Adam and the Ants! I carefully taped them back up, put them back in their place and wished away the days until I could put them on the turntable in my room.
Christmas morning came and I had to feign surprise. There was no suspense. No anticipation. I don’t remember what else I got, but i was never gonna peek again. Worst Christmas ever.
For years, V. and I didn’t buy each other Christmas gifts. I don’t know exactly why we stopped. Back in college we did. After that, we’d just get each other stuff whenever, but not for Christmas. And if there were things we wanted, we just bought them ourselves. What could I get him that he really wanted that he hadn’t all ready gotten himself? A couple years back, we started again. We had Christmas trees and we wrapped packages and we stuffed stockings. It was nice, I guess. We got each other goofy t-shirts, silly office supplies, the occasional ipod or gaming console.
Now, we live in a country where Christmas is really for church-going and for little kids. There aren’t a whole lot of things I want or need, and just like before, if I really need it, I’ll probably get it myself. Either that, or it’s too expensive here and I don’t want anyone else buying it for me.
I do, however, really want a Christmas tree, though I haven't been able to find a pink one here I’m slightly afraid that if we got one, I'd be sad when there are no gifts under it. Maybe I'll just light the menorah, bake some cookies and listen to the best Christmas song ever, Florence Dore's Christmas as interpreted by the Posies.....