Confessions of a Healing Jewish Kid
Beware—Reveal will Follow
In a moment of full release and remarkable freedom, I found myself dancing almost-wildly around the kitchen the other night. Moving and singing and smiling, I was hovering around the flow state, that zone of oneness with all of life.
I was freed, not-quite-sweaty and absolutely-happy.
I happened to notice my new-found liberation.
In a moment of renewed self-consciousness, remembering that I don’t consider myself a dancer, I slowed my pace and contemplated:
What the heck?
What was I listening to, that so liberated my heart and released my body?
What was that transformational music in the background, that sound of freedom?
Oh, no! This is slightly embarrassing, yet, here it is, my commitment to blog-centric-truth:
The tune that set me free?
Brenda Lee singing, Rocking Around the Christmas Tree, circa 1960. Here it is—please, you must listen:
I cracked myself up, realizing in that moment of my-almost-sweaty Jewish-kid liberation, that I truly and deeply and dearly love Christmas music!
This was news to me.
Although I was a Jewish kid growing up in a somewhat assimilated family in the ‘50’s, we did not celebrate Christmas. There was no Chanukah bush, no morphing greenery connecting us to the dominant culture. We lit Chanukah candles, said the prayers, no fuss/no muss/no feelings, and moved along. Perhaps there were presents—no great memory remains.
Christmas was something that everybody else had. We suffering Jewish kids couldn’t sit on Santa’s welcoming and cozy lap (today an image that turns my stomach a tad); we didn’t have lights or trees or the pageantry. We just suffered, separated from the bounty of the dominate culture, and hunkered down in our families of origin, for the long haul through the holiday season.
Adding the profundity of my family’s narrative to the tale, my mother’s father, Jack, who owned a small gas station, was run over on Christmas Eve. I was four years old. My dearest grandmother, Sonia, witnessed the accident. He died the next morning, Christmas Day.
This trauma lived in silence in our family. My mom, Tillie, who was never a frivolously joyous woman, more a silent-fierce-mamma-bear, dropped down even more in spirits around the holidays. Losing her dad too early, with the dominant culture in full-out celebration, hushed any potential whisper of frivolity in our family.
I remember the yarzheit candle, the candle we Jews lights to honor the dead, sitting in the kitchen sink (to keep us safe from full disaster, dare it burn down all of Northeastern Pennsylvania), it’s light eerily, ghostly bouncing off the porcelain.
I remember hushed voices.
I remember caution.
I remember containment.
I remember zero fun.
Back to Brenda Lee, 2018.
Brenda, I’m choosing you.
I’m coming out of the closet of holiday deprivation and festivities separation.
I’m choosing fun, the fun of the season, the fun of the lights and music and celebration.
I’m choosing all the blessings I can muster; the Chanukah candles beaming their prayers upon me, the Christmas candles warming my Semitic heart.
I’m choosing connection, unity, oneness.
I’m choosing, as the Big Book of AA says, “to be one among many”.
I’m choosing the essence of the holidays; heart, love, and life.
The ways I learned to separate myself made sense, enrolled me in my family and my larger family’s narrative. Yet today I claim that I no longer need those distinctions; that I am changing, ever-and-always changing.
We are changing, ever-and-always; being alive is a fluid and a dynamic thing.
Molding our actions, aligning them to the current moment is clearly the touch of skillful living.
I choose to celebrate living.
Let the festivities begin!
Dear Readers, what are your winter holiday memories? What traditions carry over? What new ones will you create? How do you choose to celebrate this holiday season? Keep me posted. I am firstname.lastname@example.org.
To the celebration of light!
All blessings, Aruni