Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Trigger (and I don't mean the horse)

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We were in L.A. this past weekend, visiting Laura's sister Jen who just had a new baby, Charlie, about a month ago.

Charlie was pretty cranky. And a little snuffly. And having a little trouble eating. He's a newborn. This is pretty normal.

And we were completely freaked out.  Jen, her husband Frank, Laura, me, Laura's father, Laura's mother. All of us were completely freaked out thinking that something was wrong with Charlie.

Then we had a collective realization that we are all walking around with the fear that this little boy is going to get sick.

Just like Simon.

There's this principle in medicine called Occam's Razor, which in a nutshell is, "when you hear hoofbeats, think horse, not zebra". Basically means when you're trying to figure out what's going on, the most common, probable answer is likely the right one.

In this case, the pediatrician and Jen's midwife are pretty darn sure he just has a little reflux and maybe a slight case of the sniffles. Which, is of course way more likely than him having Cardiomyopathy. And still, we're desperate for Charlie to get an echocardiogram just so we can know that we don't have to worry.
I think we collectively have a touch of PTSD. I know, that's sort of like being a little bit pregnant, but...

On the bright side, it was nice to see family, Charlie was cute as a button, Maya, his big sister was adjusting quite nicely and Simon got to go on his first solo pony ride!  He was a rock star.  After his first lap around the ring on Casper, I shouted, "Simon, are you having fun?" and he said, with a big smile, "Having fun!".  It was the highlight of the trip for me.  We recently saw Secretariat and I though to myself, "If he stays this little, maybe he has a future as a jockey...".


I also had a few reflections about this holiday season.  Simon is starting to get old enough to pick up messages about lots of stuff in our culture.  Including Christmas.

I have VERY mixed feelings about this. 

Over the years, Laura and I have had some knock-down-drag-out fights about Christmas (okay, not really violent but definitely heated).  They usually went something like this:

Laura: "Jaime, you grew up celebrating Christmas. Christmas is a Christian holiday.  Ergo, I think of you as Christian because you celebrate a Christian holiday."

Me: "I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN.  Christmas was a family thing.  We put out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the Reindeer and cheese for Santa Mouse.  Santa wrote me letters every year in crazy curly writing. I got lots of presents.  It was not about the little baby Jesus.  I believe Jesus was a righteous dude who did a lot of good stuff when he was alive, but it pretty much ends there for me.  Ergo, I am not Christian."

Laura: "But...you celebrate Christmas.  I'm Jewish.  Growing up, Christians celebrated Christmas and Jews didn't."

Me: See above.

Laura:  "Jaime.  It's Christ-mass.   It's a Christian holiday.  It's about Jesus being born.  I don't understand how you can separate that out.  I'm not saying we aren't going to celebrate it-it's your family tradition.  I totally get that.  I have no problem with it.  But admit it's a Christian holiday."

Me: "Laura Fitch.  You. Are. Not. Hearing. Me.  It was not a Christian holiday for me. It's about a big fat man in a big red suit and lots and lots of presents.  It's about magic and twinkly lights and cozy, sweet, Norman Rockwell time. Frankly, it's about Capitalism, not Christ in my family".

We'd call a truce and then have the same fight again the next year.

Then, a few Decembers into our relationship, I had an epiphany. I don't know exactly when it happened, but it slowly dawned on me that I was partnered with a Jew and her experience in the world during that time of the year was really different from mine. It was like someone lifted a veil and I suddenly saw red. And green. And white. And Santa hats. And reindeer. And Christmas trees. Everywhere I looked it was Christmas. And I was pissed about it.

Really pissed.

I suddenly had this visceral understanding of what it might be like for non-Christians during December.  Actually, any time after Halloween. I realized that most people assume everyone celebrates Christmas. Last week, some random guy wished me a Merry Christmas walking down the street.  In the middle of November. And it annoyed the hell out of me, because he assumed that I celebrate Christmas.  Which I happen to do,  but he didn't know that.

Now I hear some of you..."What's the big deal, he's just being friendly, why can't I wish someone Merry Christmas even if they don't celebrate it?".  The big deal is that people assume that everyone celebrates Christmas and is excited about it.  The assumed norm is that everyone is Christian and/or celebrates Christmas.

A lot like the way people assume that I'm straight if they just look at me.

I don't necessarily get offended, but I then have to decide if I want to correct their assumption and face an uncomfortable situation and just feel sort of invisible. This happens with Christmas too. If you make it known that you don't celebrate Christmas, people often get very uncomfortable.  I had an experience with our goddaughters around the time that I had the epiphany that illustrated this so clearly.

A stranger asked Talia, about 6 at the time, what she was going to ask Santa for, for Christmas.  Talia  replied, "Oh, we don't celebrate Christmas".  The woman looked slightly horrified and said, "Why not!?" Talia's sister, Sophie, about 9 at the time, said very matter of factly, "We're Jewish".  The woman replied with a sad face, "That's too bad".  The she brightly said, "You can still celebrate Christmas, though!"

I almost socked her right there.  Laura and the girls were totally not phased by this exchange.  They were used to it.  I was furious.

"How can this woman basically tell these two little girls that they are less than or to be felt sorry for, for their cultural and/ or religious identity, and that they should and could adopt this Christian holiday!" I ranted.  Laura just looked at me and smiled.

While we're raising Simon with Jewish traditions, we will still celebrate Christmas. I'll teach Simon about the Christmas traditions we do in my family and what it means to us.  He'll get presents, I want to do "Santa", and I'll explain what it means to me and why we do it. When we mark Easter with my Christian family members, we'll explain what Easter means to Christians and tell him about the other kinds of celebrations that mark changes of seasons like May poles and solstices.

I'm slowly letting go of my December anger and starting to appreciate the twinkly lights and holiday cheer. However, be warned that I still might bitch about Christmas throwing up all over the place now and then...

Enough pontification.
Here are a few pics from our trip:
Simon, about to embark on his solo horse journey

There is goes, the little peanut

And, he's back

PopPop, Maya and Laura on the little Steam Train

 Simon, Maya and Laura on the Steam Train

Simon and Micah (my friend Assaf's son)

Assaf, (my best friend from 5th and 6th grade that I hadn't seen in 20 years), his wife Shuli, and us

1 comment:

Abby said...


You don't know me, but I spent many summers at Farm & Wilderness with Laura.

Anyway, YES, THANK YOU, you nailed it on the head! A lifetime of wearily explaining that I don't celebrate Christmas is exhausting. If you didn't grow up celebrating it, Christmas SO does not feel like home. Christmas carols blared over every loudspeaker are a daily assault, a reminder that I don't belong. It's all that much harder to be told to be denied our reality, to be told that it's an American holiday, because if I am excluded from this holiday, does that then mean... that I am not American?

A lifetime of little "ouches".

Now I don't celebrate Hanukkah, and that makes this time even a little more weird, but certainly no one gives me grief about it (immediate family excluded, of course!).

Anyway, it's great to have you, an insider of sorts, as an ally! You explained it better than I ever could.



PS what a gorgeous fellow that Simon is! i can't get over it!