Last night the boys and I celebrated by watching the Mary Martin/Cyril Ritchards broadcast version of Peter Pan. On a new TV which doubles as a computer monitor for me, so it’s a space saver and tax-deductible cos I’m a writerly sort who writes writeful things for money.
I hate shopping. But I needed it. But I hate shopping. But can’t someone just bring it over? Ugh, I went to the store at 3PM on a Tuesday to avoid that “going shopping” feeling. It’s pretty, and not hyooge, and it fits in my computer armoire, so I can hide it. Crucial.
I still felt a little ill sticking it into my car yesterday, even though it was way on sale and I even escaped getting sucked into the extended warranty at B*st B*y. The dude who looked like Tracy Morgan from SNL? Totally didn’t get that commission. Because, see, I want you to help me. The worst thing you can do if I walk into your store is leave me alone because I’ll most likely just get overwhelmed and leave. I have questions, dammit! Your job is to be available enough for me to catch your eye when I need advice, and distanced enough to not make me uncomfortable. Like a good waiter. But that guy left me, like, three times and I found someone else to sell me electronics.
I’m feeling a bit better this morning, after setting it up and arranging components.
And now I’ve just figured out how to dim the backlight so my eyes are not accosted by the vast white expanse of Word. Now to work. Latkes tonight.
You know what would make my holidays happier? If people would stop wishing me a Merry Christmas wherever I go. I mean, for seriously.
Yesterday I was shopping with my mother who, as it turns out, is not Jewish. Hey, you just learned something about me. So anyway, we’re at this clothing store where we know the owner, who is a dumbass and a flake, and “sharon” says to me, “Oh, Madeline, I bet your kids are getting so excited for Santa Claus! Have they been making their Christmas Lists?!”
This is one of my favorite conversations to have because I like watching people backtrack and squirm.
“Well, no, they’re not, because we don’t celebrate Christmas at our house.”
“Oh . . . oh, right. Well, they must be excited for Chanukah, right?”
My mother, who can’t stand squirmage, jumped to Sharon’s rescue. “Miles and Jack actually say that: ‘We don’t have Christmas at our house; we have it at Grammy’s house.”
“Oh! So I’ll bet they’re giving their Christmas lists to Grandma!”
Fuck me, man.
“Actually, since Chanukah is a relatively minor holiday in Judaism, we keep it pretty low-key. They don’t make lists of things they want.”
The lady looked like she was trying to comprehend this information, while at the same time thinking how deprived my poor children must be that they don’t get to experience sticky-sweet excessive consumerism. I shot my mom a look.
“It’s really very refreshing,” she said, “I’ve never gotten a list from them.”
Then I told my mom, since I didn’t feel like talking to the lady any more, but I wanted to make sure she heard me, about what Miles had said to me on Monday night.
“I remember when we had Chanukah at our old apartment: we played dreidel on the floor and got chocolate gelt and we each lit our own menorah and I got a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle on a Motorcycle! That was awesome. I still have that turtle.”
We left that store and popped into the grocery store across the street. On the way out the bell ringer called out, “Merry Christmas!” and I just held my head up and kept walking. Because I know that, in my town at least, the Salvation Army INSTRUCTS their ringers to say that. But I also know that, where Disapproving Maya works, the management asked the bell ringers to say “Happy Holidays” instead.
See? Nice, easy, inclusive. And I know that the Salvation Army is a Christian charity, duh. But charity, acceptance and coexistence are all Christian tenets, right?
I guarantee you that Jews would throw lots more money into those red buckets if we didn’t feel marginalized by the assumption that we believe that Christ was the only son of God/Eternally begotten of the Father/God from God/Light from Light/True God from True God/Begotten not made/ of one being with the father/through him all things were made/for us and for our salvation he was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary and was made man/For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried.
How about some Latin, yeah? Just to keep things interesting? You bet.
Crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato, passus et sepultus est, et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas, et ascendit in caelum, sedet ad dexteram Patris. Et iterum venturus est cum gloria, iudicare vivos et mortuos, cuius regni non erit finis.
Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem, qui ex Patre procedit. Qui cum Patre et Filio simul adoratur et conglorificatur: qui locutus est per prophetas. Et unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam. Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum. Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum, et vitam venturi saeculi. Amen.
Whoa. Like, don’t assume we believe that. Just because some of us know it by heart, just like we know “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night” because our orchestra and choir programs apparently weren’t subject to the whole “separation of church and state” thing. And please don’t assume that, just because your response is, “but it’s a seasonal greeting/I’m not talking about religion,” it makes any difference to Jews or Muslims or Pagans or Atheists or Wiccans or any other minority faith. We really don’t care.
As my friend Amy Guth put it (far more eloquently and less rantingly) on her blog, it’s not my birthday, it’s yours, and it feels oogy when you keep wishing me a happy one.
I came home and called the grocery store manager.
So I’m at services tonight (wearing all white, thanks) and gorgeous tall man is sitting a row behind me and four seats over. Swoonage.
I’m trying hard to focus on things. cos g-d knows I’ve got what to atone for.
We stand for the Al Het, when we enumerate all 44 types of transgressions we may have committed in the past year and I glance over my shoulder.
He winks at me.
Eeeps. I grin and my stomach does little flips.
Then we get to the part of the Al Het where it goes (in the New Machzor) “For the sins we have committed with wanton glances” and I cringe a little bit.
But then I sort of smile to myself.
I am a sucker for rituals.
For years I thought it’d be cool to be Catholic, so I could go to confession, light candles, dip my fingers in holy water and cross myself. Also, there’s the whole priest-putting-communion-wafer-on-my-tongue thing. That’s pretty hot.
They lose me, though, with the whole lamb of God/died on the cross thing. No that there’s anything wrong with people who believe that’s how things went down, it’s just not my tradition.
I’m not terribly religious. Like, I don’t go to services every week, or even every month. I’m always there for holidays though, and let’s face it, Jews have a lot of damn holidays, and Rosh HaShanah is my favorite.
So I was in services this morning and they’d finished the torah reading. The rabbi called up this seriously tall and gorgeous man to be Hagba and hold one of the scrolls while it was covered and put back in the ark.
His royal blue dress shirt accentuated the stripes in his tallit, not to mention what it did for his eyes. They were piercingly blue. Nice touch with the dark brown hair and closely trimmed beard. Man, but he was handsome.
The rabbi looked around, needing someone to do the Gelilah and “dress” the torah which was being held in the lap of said gorgeous man. So, you know, the rabbi picked me. This is a seriously big honor in the circle of the Heebs, and I don’t want to cheapen it by telling you what I thought as I approached the front, but you know, I’m going to anyway.
“Heeeeeeeee,” I thought to myself as I walked up to the bimah, “gorgeous guy sitting in a chair in front of me…um, what am I supposed to do, again? Right, right, I’ve seen this done before. Focus, Madeline, this is serious.”
I walked over and took the velvet elasticized band which clips over the centers of the scrolls and holds them together. I bent down, glanced at him and smiled, “Hi.”
“Hi,” he smiled back.
I took the velvet cover and threaded the wooden handles through the holes in the top, bringing the gold and white embroidered fabric down, brushing his knuckles. My heart did a little leap.
The metal breastplate was next. I hung its chain over the handles and straightened it, leaning forward and peeking from behind the torah which separated us. Then the silver Yad pointer, which hangs on its chain from one of the tops. It chunnnked into place when I laid it down.
“Good job,” tall gorgeous man whispered.
I smiled, “You, too.”
“It’s my first time,” he said.
“Really? It’s my first time, too.”
And there are not too many things I can say that about.
Many glances were exchanged for the rest of the service, as he sat up front holding the torah and I sat in my seat.
Later, the rabbi made a special effort to make sure I knew that he considers Yom Kippur a “hookup holiday,” since once your 25-hour fast is over, you’re supposed to like, get it on. Apparently it says this in the bible somewhere.
Then he winked at me and invited me to lunch at his home.
So now tall gorgeous man and I have shared gefilte fish, hummus, mandelbrot and coffee at the rabbi’s house. He is a Mac user, Honda owner and our Treos had sex as we beamed our business cards to each other. I don’t think I said anything stupid or ridiculous but how would I know, really? My mind kept wandering to how handsome he was, and how I came just to his collarbone. How he would have to bend down to kiss me.
I love the High Holidays, with their familiar rituals and liturgy, the same prayers every year, the sounding of the shofar and the whole spirituality of it. I love the way that, at Rosh Hashanah, things seem infinitely possible. As the past year closes and we prepare for the next, everything seems new and alive and sweet. For the rest of the world, it’s just another couple days of the week, but for Jews it’s so significant. That’s pretty awesome.
I love, too, how the last few days have been a minor drag for me with some family drama and yet I felt so serene as I walked the dog tonight with my boys, excited about this guy–about the possibility that this guy represents–and smiled all dreamy-like.
We left the rabbi’s house together this afternoon, tall gorgeous man and I. I walked with him to just short of his car. He took my hand and didn’t shake it, just walked backwards to his car and looked at me with those eyes.