Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Memories

I grew up with Israel Berlin’s White Christmas….just like all the ones he used to know. If he could remember all those sleigh bells and glistening tree tops in the shetyl, so could I.

I’ll never forget the nickel, dime and quarter I used to trace a snowman in art class. Next to Glee Club these were my most dreaded hours at P.S. 99. I was a handicapped specimen of a child; I couldn’t draw and I couldn’t carry a tune. There was a large chunk of my genome missing. Snow scenes were beyond me and they were mandatory. If this were a true meritocracy I'd still be in fourth grade for the 75th year with my three coins. However my mother was a force to be reckoned with on the P.T.A. and she probably sprung me.

I just read that Christmas is celebrated by 95% of America. I must have been in that 5% which has nothing to do with the 1% who run off to one of their off-shore accounts and visit their money for the occasion.

For me Christmas was the time when other kids got Lionel trains, complete with tunnels and bridges. I think I was about nine when I did receive a Monopoly board game. I’ve spent most of my life ever since on Baltic and Mediterranean. I got as far as Marvin Gardens once but ended up in jail. I remember that morning so well because my brother refused to play with me. He was a big-shot at thirteen. I was small fry and I suppose it was beneath him to stoop to my level. I don’t think Arthur ever forgave me for being born, ruining his status as an only child. By the time he was thirty I was older than he. He was not at home in this world and would be dead at thirty-three.

As an adult I always celebrated the holidays possibly as compensation for those early years being left out. I’m all into it as long as I don’t have to draw Dickensian pictures of scarfed carolers, one-horse open sleighs or red-nosed reindeer. I love giving presents however about five years ago Peggy and I put a halt to the ritual. We’ve run out of wall. Our bookcases are bursting. Closets packed. If I get one more sweater I’ll put it on e-Bay. We are in relinquishing mode.

I could tell you how we went to midnight mass last night, baked bread this morning for the big feast when Abner and Abigail are coming over and we let our crazy uncle down from the attic to sit at the table along with my sister and her no-good husband and how my teenage son is being released from drug rehab with an ankle bracelet ......but none of this ever happened.

I wonder if Izzy (Irving) Berlin ever wrote of the vivid memories of those dreams he really had in his Russian village running all the way across the ocean to the lower eastside. And now how marauding soldiers gather around a fire singing about his White Christmas.

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