Here we measure seasons by small changes in temperature and for one, heavy rainfall.
We are the calendar reliant, otherwise left to look at the moon and count to ascertain roughly
what month it might be, but we now live in a solar calendar world so our lunar efforts are necessarily doomed to failure.
And holidays are different here, Christmas has no snow, so we decorate our palms and perhaps have inflatable snowmen or reindeer, and hang icicles from our gutters as a reminder of what winter is for so many other than us.
Stevie and I were probably eight sitting on the front stoop of our flat, he the only one in third grade smaller than me. There was no snow to be seen, none in the sky, none on the frozen and still patchy lawn, just the wind of an always cold December day. Christmas is coming, I said aren’t you excited, with all the gifts. Stevie smiled, they’re always great but maybe this year I’ll finally meet Santa. I laughed, lacking the heart to shatter an infantile dream. Do you buy into the sled and reindeer thing, or does he come more by way of magic. Of course it’s the sled, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had some pretty good jet engines. And you think he comes down the chimney I asked. We don’t have one, you know that so he must use a back window, the one where I broke the lock last summer when we were spies. He looked momentarily sad, you don’t have anything like Santa, although you get lots of neat gifts, just not all at once. At least eight, most years more but you’re right we have no Santa, but we have something even better. Better how, what could be better? Each year at Passover, Elijah comes in during our Seder I don’t see him but we have to open the door for him during dinner. Does he bring you anything? He’s not like that, he just comes all old and bearded, and before you can even see him he’s gone again, probably next door at the Goldstein’s or maybe with Larry Finkel, though his mom can’t cook very well. So what’s he do, this Elijah? Not much, I admitted, but he does have a drinking problem.
First Published in Friends & Friendship Vol. 1, The Poet, 2021
It isn’t my first Christmas although almost so, that part of me hidden for half a century, its twisted discovery filling a hole that I never knew existed, yet always knew.
This is the strangest Christmas, a time of gathering, now in isolation, only pixels and prayers on a too flat screen, and it is hard, in times of want and suffering, to recall why we celebrate this day.
A child was born, and now countless others will be, and it is only the children that recall his message, and truly understand peace.
Take one part Grand Marnier, one Frangelico, a short cup of coffee, whipped cream only if you wish, curl on the sofa with your life’s greatest love and your first real, truly your first Christmas Eve makes you wonder why you waited so long.
First published in The Poet: Christmas (2020 United Kingdom)
It is December, and in this part of Florida that simply means that a morning jacket is advised, and rain comes as a bit of a surprise. A neighbour was surprised to be told that they decorated like a Northerner, but assumed that it was a bit of a dig, though they thought the inflatable snowman and reindeer captured the season’s spirit. We laugh at the red hat wearing flamingo’s and the Christmas alligators, the lighted palm trees seem appropriate and snowflakes, even lit ones, know better than to appear, for the mocking of ibis and egrets can be unmerciful. So we’ll settle for our odd little tree with its lifetime of ornaments, each carrying with it the spirit of a day when we ought to ask ourselves what we can do to prepare the world for the generations we hope will follow.
First published in The Poet: Christmas, December 2020 (United Kingdom)
The night is that bitter cold that slices easily through nylon and Polartec, makes child’s play of fleece and denim. The small rooms glow in the dim radiance of propane lights and heaters as the silver is carefully packed away in plastic tool boxes. The pinyon wood is neatly stacked in forty pyres, some little taller than the white children clinging to their parents’ legs, some reaching twenty-five feet, frozen sentinels against the star gorged sky. The fires are slowly lighted from the top, the green wood slowly creeps to flame as its sap drips fire until the pile is consumed. Half frozen we step away from the sudden oven heat. The smoke climbs obliterating the stars as the procession snakes from the small, adobe church, the men at its head firing rifles into the scowling smoke cloud. A sheet is draped over the four poles a chupah over the statue of the Virgin Mother remarried to her people. She weaves through the crowd, gringos, Indians, looking always upward, beyond the smoke the clouds against which it nestles, beyond all, for another faint glimpse of her Son.
As a child, a Jewish child no less, December was always a bit difficult. We had Channukah, which no Jew would dare claim grew solely to compete with Christmas, although we all knew that was precisely what had happened.
The problem was Christmas, but had nothing to do with Jesus, or the church or even its historical teachings about the supposed role we Jews played in that story, a role for which we had been paying for two millennia.
The problem was far more basic, and all you needed to do was drive down virtually any street in any city and it would be at once apparent. Christmas-celebrating homes were decked out in all colors of lights, while Jewish homes, those few who competed, were left with a palate of white and blue, or up to nine candles, and that was a guaranteed for sure last place finish in the December game.
Christmas is a day that demands silence and a certain solitude that we no longer allow. Some say you need to rediscover your inner child, but that isn’t it at all and maybe more the problem, since we all forget that we celebrate an infant and all infants know is peace.