Grandparents and recalling Christmases past while hiking in the Negev
I spoke to my grandmother, my one living grandparent, on the phone last night, in honor of Thanksgiving, and it made me miss her even more. I hadn't spoken to her since I left the US in August. There is no excuse for that, given the price of long-distance calls these days, but the miles somehow make it seem further. So much of the time we have spent together has been around activities or food, that it's hard to sustain a relationship over the phone. I don't think I would want to commune with her over the Internet, even if she were willing to, which I don't think she would be. It would have been really fun to "do" Thanksgiving over the Internet, via webcam, with the extended family, but it wouldn't have been the same. At all. Thanksgiving is a BIG deal in my family, at least partly because it was the only holiday my immediate, Jewishly-observant family could do with my non-observant wider family. I've only, in my life, had two Thanksgivings before this one without my grandmother, siblings, parents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. One was when my grandparents didn't make a big Thanksgiving because they were having a 50th wedding anniversary party the same winter, and the other was when I was in Israel in 1997. (Is it normal to say "make Thanksgiving" the same way one says "make Pesach," or is that a Yiddishism that has crept into my English?) My mother is making Thanksgiving dinner tonight, for my father, sister, me, and two friends, but it isn't the same, although I am looking forward to it tremendously.
I was hiking in the Negev over the past three days, and the subject of Christmas traditions came up. Yes, a bunch of Jews hiking in the Negev, discussing Christmas. Why not? One Jew, who grew up in Utah, recalled hitting the slopes every Christmas, since they were virtually empty. Another Jew, probably from New York although I wouldn't swear to it, recalled movies and Chinese food.
At first, I said that my family didn't have any Christmas traditions, but then one came to mind. My grandparents used to visit us from California twice a year: December vacation and Pesach. The December vacation at the day school I attended typically began on December 26, just to make a point.
The Christmas tradition that I recall most strongly took place on December 26: the day the Christmas chocolate went on sale. We would go to the local drugstore and stock up on red and green Hershey's kisses and half-priced sugar cookies shaped like Santa Claus. All such foods were forbidden by my parents, but allowed, and in quite liberal portions, by my grandparents. The other thing that we used to buy was smoked sable from the local kosher butcher. It was delicious. My mother didn't like it, so we never had it except when my grandparents came to visit. I wonder if you can get it in Israel? And why did I never buy it for myself, once I was of age to do so? My grandfather also used to buy us all the herring we could eat. I don't like herring any more, but when I was seven and eight, I loved it. And, again my mother didn't like it, so we only had it when my grandparents came to visit.
You can't do half-off Christmas chocolate, half-off Santa cookies, smoked sable, and cream herring over the Internet.
I never share photos on this site, but I wanted to share some views of the Negev. It was so great to get outside--both to be outdoors and to be away from the beit midrash, largely because of my recent frustrations. I might write about the trip some more at some point. I also want to write about the KolDor conference and the General Assembly (aka "GA"), both of which I attended a few weeks ago now. Enjoy!
It's all about Reese's hearts. Except February 15 is often too late to find those in the stores -- you have to go February 14 at night.