Oy, Humbug!3 minute read

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you be of good cheer
It’s the most wonderful time of the year

:::::needle scratches across the entire width of the record::::::

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I am not alone in this sentiment but I always feel that “we” are in the minority. Or, are we? Are there more of us in the holiday closet covered in tinsel sitting on a menorah?

The holiday season starts a few weeks before Halloween and goes right through New Year’s Day. Yes, I am prone to hyperbole and I know Halloween isn’t part of the mischegas but if you were in a big box store any time after September there was already retail encouragement to buy yo’self a big inflatable Santa.

I was raised nothing. I am of Jewish extraction: my mother’s mother was a shiksa. She converted to Judaism which strictly speaking makes me Jewish. I identify mostly with pastrami and a new dill.

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If you are in the “humbug closet,” what I have realized is it isn’t really for one reason. It isn’t a simple equation and it can change depending on what your circumstances are. There are people who have horrible childhood memories and that can make navigating the commercialized cheer unbearable.

For myself some seasons were better than others. They ranged from okay to not fun. Some years I just wanted the Thanksgiving Day tryptophan to shove me into a coma until January 2. My favorite years were when I celebrated with my best friend and his family because of the unorthodox hilarity.

What never seems to change is the feeling that I am an alien on planet Christmas. You may have heard the acronym FOMO (fear of missing out); at this time of year I have AMO (always missing out).

I long for an upper class Dickensian parlor (is that a literary oxymoron?) with a roaring fireplace, people snuggled up, laughing and joy—lots and lots of joy. Someone sees me outside, nose pressed against the glass, and says: “Come on in, Randi! We have a stocking for you and a cup of this goopy eggy drink!” Then I’d skip over the threshold look around and feel like I’m in the wrong novel. I am a wreath of ambivalence.

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My own mother is quite the Scrooge. Excluding Thanksgiving. That meal is her jam. Anyone who has sat at her table is forever destroyed for any other spread. It is just that good. Otherwise, she has always felt that the season of giving was one giant Hallmark holiday. This really got her Ms. Magazine subscriber ire up. She is a generous gift giver but doesn’t like being told: “Now, buy now.” I asked her to unpack this a bit more and she added that my father was a Christmas loving Jew and for the few years they were married he had her do the work of getting the tree and all the paraphernalia. That was pre-Ms. Magazine so she did it. But to know her is to know she is not elf material.

I never met a Jewish kid who didn’t at one point covet a Christmas Tree. Which is why so many have a Hanukah Bush. “Why can’t WE have one?” This plea was met with resolute, inflammatory, irritation. She was very firm that we do not assimilate. Even at the ripe age of eight or nine, I remember questioning if we are so Jewish why had I never stepped foot in a Synagogue? She told me that it wasn’t about religion, it was about not forgetting how the Holocaust almost successfully eliminated Jews. Ipso facto we are Jews. No tree. The End.

Halfhearted Hanukah is what I got. (Someone please write me that blues song for my book.) I remember it being very anti-climatic (did you really give me socks one night?) compared to what was happening all around me. She tried to smooth this over by telling me that Hanukah’s top forty ranking was faked. It wasn’t even a major holiday it only got pushed up the charts because Jews had major FOMO. It’s a good thing our food is so good. A good latke trumps most ham.

I have been invited to a few parties this year and I will get out there and do some socializing because my tendency to isolate is not good for me. The best holiday season would be back-to-back gigs: watching others drink and be merry while I am paid to supply the soundtrack—and I am happy to say I have a few of those on the books this year. I hope a gig comes for New Year’s because that level of enforced, expensive, intoxicated levity not even I can fake.

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The holiday season hits the buttons that are already a bit over pushed. My family is only Mom. I don’t have a significant other. Like many performers, off stage I can be shy (which comes across as aloof). So gearing up for a party feels more like work than play. Unless it’s a huge fancy party and that I love because then I can sit back and people watch.

I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday season no matter how much or how little you choose to celebrate and that 2018 is filled with lots and lots of joy.

And at least one good pastrami on rye……don’t forget the pickle.

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