January 3, 2014
I want to thank you for allowing me to “be” you for the last 5 years. You know how much my son needed to believe in magic, and you provided that for him. I really wrestled with whether I should introduce him to you or not. He was 8 years old his first Christmas with me, and–as you know–by that age I had lost my childhood belief in you. I wondered whether it was morally right to introduce a figure such as yourself to a child who had already lost so much. I didn’t want him to feel abandoned when he lost you. He has always been so savvy, so street-smart, so lacking in imagination, I wondered whether he would even be able to grasp who you were. And so I decided I would let him lead me. I told him a little bit about you, then I let his schoolmates and his tv shows tell him the rest. I figured if he needed you he would grasp on to you.
And grasp on he did! One of my favorite memories will always be Rahul’s reaction to the mounds of presents you left under the tree that first Christmas morning. He knew who you were, but he hadn’t really believed you would visit him. He thought he was too bad. Too insignificant. He hadn’t made a Christmas list and didn’t know what to do with the toy catalogue I had handed him. (You may remember that my sister and I would devour the Sears Catalogue every December, pouring over it for hours, circling things we fancied and adding them to our list…) Once when I read to him at bedtime I finished with a poem about a little girl wishing on a star for her Christmas wish–a horse. I asked Rahul whether there was anything in particular he would wish for as a Christmas present. He didn’t even understand my question. After much explanation and prodding he squeaked out, “A remote controlled car?” I smiled to myself, because the very car he wanted was at that moment hiding in my closet:)
That first Christmas Eve I snuck around hearing Mission Impossible music in my head while he slept 6 feet away from the Christmas tree. And in the morning as he climbed down from his loft bed he could barely comprehend what he was seeing! Presents! Tons of them, all for him! His first comment was, “I must have been a very good boy!” That is what it meant to him: validation. You taught him that he was good.
And over the years, despite his classmates and friends outgrowing their belief in you, Rahul stood firm. The child with no imagination and very little faith in anything, believed wholeheartedly in you. He loved your letters most of all. He held them as some of his most prized possessions, asking me throughout the year to pull them out so he could re-read them. Knowing that you were proud of him gave him strength and helped him to be proud of himself.
I knew it was going to be tough for him to hear the full truth about you, but I was prepared when he finally asked for the whole truth this year. Initially, the news was devastating to him. Despite being 13 years old, Rahul was a True Believer. He looked at me in complete shock and shut down, except to ask me for your most recent letter to him. He spent the night crying on that letter, his tears doing their best to wash away your words. All the next day he wrestled with disappointment, anger, embarrassment. He kept saying that you were a lie. That I had lied to him about you. And I insisted that I had not lied. That you were real, just not what he thought you were. I explained to him how as a parent I had the amazing opportunity to play the role of Santa. To become you. I explained how a myth and a lie are very different things. One is told in love, the other in malice. And after hours and hours of talking through his feelings, I finally read him the “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” letter. And that did it. That encompassed everything I was trying to explain to him and it made sense to him. After 24 hours of declaring that we would not celebrate Christmas this year, he finally smiled and said, “OK. Christmas is back on.”
And it was different this year for him. Less magical. Its always difficult that first year. Its hard for us until we learn to become you, to bring magic to others and receive a different type of magic in return. Please help us all to embody you as we believe in one another and celebrate their victories.
In the meantime, thank you for giving Rahul something no one else could: belief in himself.
December 16, 2010
I’m feeling particularly snarky tonight–I think the overwhelmingness of this overwhelming season has, well, begun to overwhelm me. So with all the bitterness and Bad Santa I can muster, here’s my dissection of the worst, most creepy and disturbing Christmas anthem ever recorded:
DO THEY KNOW ITS CHRISTMAS–by Band Aid
It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid
- OK. Right off the bat I have a problem with this song. The people who usually say, “There’s no need to be afraid” are usually people who are about to mug you or hurt you in some way. Of course we have no reason to be afraid! Its Christmas! And that’s all you’ve said so far! What’s scary about that? Are you referring to the death gongs we’re hearing in the background?
At Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shade
- So, not to be critical, or anything. But has anyone ever said, “Oh its Christmas time–let’s make sure we banish shade!” I’m mean, what did shade ever do?
And in our world of plenty, we can spread a smile of joy!
Throw your arms around the world at Christmas time
- Boy George, I have no problem with you. Yes, let’s.
But say a prayer – pray for the other ones
- Yes, we should say a prayer. Thank you for reminding us, George Michael. What “other ones” are you referring to? And are they in some way connected with a creepy guy named Ben? (Sorry. Outdated Lost reference.)
At Christmas time
it’s hard, but when you’re having fun
There’s a world outside your window
- For a minute here I feel like I’m gonna like this song.
And it’s a world of dreaded fear
- And here’s where the song starts to go downhill for me. And its not that I disagree that a large part of the world lives in fear. Its just so First World of this song to make it seem that the whole world–except us–is living in dreaded fear. Yes, there are some parts of the world, even today–many years after this song was recorded (!) where people are living in extreme poverty. And I believe our lives, if we have any means at all, should be spent working towards eliminating that poverty. But to paint the picture that everyone in Africa is miserable and only with money and power can you find the true meaning of Christmas, seems to be the underlying message of the song.
Where the only water flowing is a bitter sting of tears
- Aww! Sting sang the word “sting”!
And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom
- What?????? Clanging chimes of doom??? “Sorry, you impoverished, suffering person. You may think those lovely Christmas bells are meant to represent the hope and promise of Jesus’ birth. But actually they are signaling your doom. Just wanted to let you know.”
Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you
- OH. MY. GOD! What??!!! What is THAT supposed to mean????!! I’m sure whenever Bono hears that he wants to throw up just a little.
And there won’t be snow in Africa this christmas time
- There’s NEVER snow in Africa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (except for the Atlas Mountains in Morocco). Is this supposed to imply that because many countries in Africa are suffering economically God changed the weather on them? Just to drive the nail in a little further??
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life
Where nothing ever grows
No rain or rivers flow
- Nothing? Nothing ever grows? No rain? Ever? The picture being painted here is less an accurate. It seems like they are trying to say that everyone on the continent of Africa is lucky to be alive and all the land is a barren wasteland suffering drought. I mean, the suffering in parts of Africa is beyond our ability to even imagine. But if I were an African hearing this song I would be offended. Can anyone say Broad Generalization?
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?
- Well, 47% of Africa is Muslim, so I’m pretty sure they don’t care if its Christmas.
Here’s to you
Raise your glass for everyone
Here’s to them
Underneath that burning sun
- All right. So let’s say I’m moved by this song. I’ve realized that I’ve been taking my abundance for granted and I’m ready to do something that will make a difference. “What should I do, oh 80’s pop stars?” Their answer: Have a drink. Cheers, “other ones”!
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?
- Once again, just saying. Only 40% of the continent is Christian.
Feed the world
Feed the world
Feed the world
Let them know it’s christmas time and
Feed the world
- Hey, Bob Geldof is OK in my book. He did a really cool thing and has spent a lot of his life trying to do SOMETHING for the poor and that’s more than most can say. ( Bob, please tell me the money DID go to the poor. Some say it went to buy weapons for Ethopian rebels. Oh whew! The BBC retracts that claim! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-11688535) So to his cause and his idea I give an A+++++. To the lyrics of this particular song, D-.
Wow. I feel so much better. Thanks Band Aid. I now will pour myself some wine and raise a glass to you!
November 23, 2010
It all started with the turkey.
The restaurant where I was working when I was, like, 24 years old gave us all free, frozen turkeys as a Thanksgiving present. So my roommate, Kara, and I decided to make a night out of setting each another up on dates, eating said turkey in the context of a fancy dinner, then going out to Lincoln Center for a concert. I had always wanted to attend a Handel’s Messiah concert, so we got tickets and we got dates. Then our friend Mike (and neighbor–he lived one floor above us in our apt bldg) heard about our plan and wanted to join us. He got his own date.
My job was going to be preparing the turkey/stuffing. Kara (who was a vegetarian, BTW) was going to make soup–a family recipe. That left Mike in charge of dessert. Kara and I were unsure of Mike’s comfort level with baking, so we looked up a few recipes and offered suggestions. We thought something light and fruity would be appropriate pre-concert.
He chose to make a Betty Crocker chocolate cake.
The day of our event I woke up and went to the freezer to take my turkey out. That’s right. I hadn’t thawed it. It was frozen solid. And our guests were coming over in about 8 hours. In a panic, I read the packaging on the turkey and it said something about a “quick thaw” method that involved soaking it in a cold water bath. Whew! I thought. Crisis averted! I put the turkey in a cold water bath, then left to go on an audition. When I came back 2 hours later, the turkey was still frozen solid. I chipped ice off it and tried to scrape the gizzards out of the cavity, but my fingers were getting frostbitten. I was beginning to think the turkey miiiiiight not be ready to serve in 6 hours. So I called Kara at work to alert her. She worked in a wall street office and offered to go around to the executives and pilfer bits of fruit and crackers from the Harry and David gift baskets they had all gotten from their clients for Christmas. Then she told me she would have to work late and would only be getting home in time for the dinner. Uh, what? What about your soup, Kara? No problem, she assured me. She said all the ingredients were in a grocery bag and all I had to do was open all the packages and dump them in a pot on the stove. I said, Uh, Kara? I can’t cook. (Obviously.) So when you say, open the packages and dump it in a pot, that is LITERALLY what I am going to do. I don’t have any method of discerning if I should perhaps add some water or some other soupy ingredient. I’ll try not to burn it, but at this point, that’s all I can promise. She was OK with those odds and said goodbye, leaving me again to my turkey dilemma. I set up another cold bath for the little guy and went about preparing the table. I had place cards, floral arrangements, china…table setting was my strength and really, I should have just stuck with that.
Then there was a knock on the door and it was Mike, stopping by to show me that he had purchased his Betty Crocker cake mix and was heading home to bake. Uh, Mike, don’t bother me. I’m thawing a turkey. After he left I went back into the kitchen and searched through my cookbooks looking for some miracle cure for the chunk of ice and flesh taking a bath in my sink. Then I saw it. At the bottom of the page in one of my cookbooks it read: Questions about cooking your turkey? Call the TURKEY HOTLINE! It listed a 1-800 number and I ran to the phone to call it. Unfortunately the lady who answered my call was moving at a non-New York City pace. I think she was from, like, Alabama. Even the way she said hello was slow: Heeeelllllllllloooooooooo-oooooooooo????? Before she even got to the lll’s I had screamed hello!!!! In about 2.7 seconds I detailed my crisis to her and awaited instructions. She paused. For a long time. Then she said, Sooooooooooo. Yyyoooooouuuuu’rrrrrrreee ffffrrrrrooooooooommmmmm NNNNNeeeeewwwww YYYYYooooorrrrkkkkk CCCCCCiiiitttttyyyyyyyyyy???????? Another long pause. I edited what came to my mind so that what came to my mouth was, Yes. And I really need some help. RIGHT NOW! Then Super Slow Turkey Hotline Lady came through and told me that I could actually cook the turkey while its still frozen, I would just have to add a half hour of cooking time for every pound. I quickly did some math in my head and realized that if I put the turkey in the oven right then, it would be ready at 10:30 pm, just about the time we would be getting back from the concert. I was elated!! I thanked SSTHL and got off the phone.
Then there was another knock on my door. It was Mike again. Renee, do you have a bowl I can borrow? I was about to criticize him for not having a bowl when he was making a cake, then I remembered that my turkey was still solid as a rock. Sure, Mike. Let me get you a bowl.
I put the turkey in the oven and called Kara again to check in when there was another knock and the door. It was Mike again. Do you have a measuring cup I could borrow? Ran through my own cooking failure in my head again and edited my comment to, Sure Mike, Let me get you a measuring cup.
Then I set about finishing up the cleaning and opening all the packages for Kara’s soup, when there was another knock at the door. Mike. 2 eggs? Oil? I gave him a look that said everything my brain was thinking and after I silently passed him the eggs and oil I slammed the door in his face.
Our guests were about to arrive, so I went in the bathroom to get ready and Kara came home from work just in time to greet them with her pears and crackers. She stopped in at the bathroom to see how I was doing and I was just sitting in a heap crying. I was so stressed out and felt like such a failure. She talked me through it, gave me a hug and got me on my feet again. I asked, Did the soup come out OK? She averted my eyes and said, No, it hadn’t, and quickly exited. A few minutes later she came back in the bathroom. She had tears in her eyes and she was holding back a huge laugh as she asked me to come out into the kitchen. I followed her out and greeted all our guests, who were pretending to like their Harry and David castoffs. And when I got to the kitchen, she gestured to Mike’s “cake”, which was sitting on the counter. Actually, it was kind of sliding off. He had attempted a layer cake. And I’m pretty sure he was waiting at the oven door for the cake to finish baking with a spatula full of frosting. Because the cake was still steaming hot and the frosting had turned to “icing/liquid” and was running down our counter. The top layer of the cake had slid off and was at a 45 degree angle. And cake was on a cheap Kmart plate. I loved it. I laughed so hard that I had to sit down on the floor. Our elegant dinner was such a flop and we were all losers in the kitchen, but it really was starting to strike me as incredibly hysterical.
After our hors d’Oveures we set off for the concert, with the plan that after the concert we would come back and sit down for our “feast”. The turkey remained in the oven, causing approximately 7 fire hazards.
The concert was very nice. But I have a bit of a sensitivity to people making noise around me in theaters. I can hear someone sucking on a hard candy across a room full of 300 people. And unfortunately, the women behind me had just purchased some fascinating opera glasses at the gift shop. And unfortunately, they were wrapped in what sounded like 13 layers of crinkly, plastic wrap. And UNFORTUNATELY, they chose the very quiet, sad, alto solo, “He Was Despised”, about Jesus’ crucifixion, to unwrap their new goggles and chat all about them loudly right in my ear. Kind of wrecked it for me.
Anyway, after the concert we went back to my place, where the turkey STILL was not cooked. It was now late and we were all cranky and starving, so we decided to eat the only piece of food in the house. The cake. We sat down at the fancy table I had set up and set the “cake” in the center. Then we all grabbed our forks and just started hacking away at it. It was too lopsided and slippery to actually cut, and we were too tired to try anyway. So we just ate like pigs in fancy clothes.
Then Mike left to take his date home. And my date went home. Then Kara said goodbye to her date and went to bed. At 2:30 am Mike returned. He was hungry and the turkey was finally done.
So we carved it up and the two of us ate, what I swear to this day, was the most delicious turkey I’ve ever eaten.