Monday, December 25, 2017

And So This Is Christmas

We never celebrated Christmas when I was growing up. Never had a tree or lights in the windows. And even though we were Jewish, we never celebrated Hanukkah either. Never lit candles for a menorah. December always came and went without much fanfare in our house. My father told us from the time we were young that he was an atheist. I always loved that about him, that and all the other wonderful honest soulful things he shared with us. I thought that he may have arrived at his atheistic reality after being a medic in World War II, fighting behind enemy lines at the Battle of the Bulge, or maybe just growing up with an ogre of a father and a brokenhearted and sadly suicidal mother. However he got there, he was there. I didn't mind growing up without a structured belief system, other than sincere compassion and desire to understand the world.

So here it is another Christmas, and I'm thinking of my dad. Last week would have been his 99th birthday. I wish he had been here to celebrate, but he's already been gone for 25 years. Still not a day goes by that I don't think of him, and especially at Christmas because it stirs these long-ago memories. Here is my only Christmas story.

We didn't really celebrate the day, but for some reasaon my paternal grandfather did. So, every year we drove from our suburban home back to the busy city streets of our hometown Newark, New Jersey to pick him up, then pick up my father's younger sister (the one who never got married), and drive to their older sister's house for dinner. When we would pull up in front of Poppy's ground floor apartment, we always recognized his window because of the blinking Santa face in it every year. It always stuck us as crazy hilarious that he would have such a thing, but he always did. He would literally have a huge bag of toys for his grandchildren that we put in the trunk of our car. He had seven grandchildren, and many gifts for each one. Plastic things he bought at the Woolworth's store. Things we never dreamed we wanted because we actually didn't. But we were always so grateful and appreciative of his efforts. We couldn't wait to see what Poppy had in his bag. We would always take it all home and literally never see them again. A yearly ritual was all it was.

Christmas stirs these memories. My father's father was not a kind or good man. He was gruff and mean. Somehow my father resisted his influence and became the kind of man who cared deeply for others. And so this is Christmas, and I think of my father, an atheist who taught me well.

Here is a song a friend sent us that we have fallen in love with. We share it here, and wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

15 comments:

  1. Beautiful memory, Robin. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. I always enjoy hearing stories about holiday traditions or lack thereof. Very nice song.

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  3. Colette-- Thank you, glad you liked the memory.

    Sharon-- Glad you liked the song and story.

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  4. Enjoyed this story robin. I have always wondered how you came to your belief. My father was an agnostic--as he would say with a smile that he was too chicken to say he was atheist. Though he didn't believe, he exposed me to all the churches in our town from Jewish, Catholic to Pentecostal. He wanted me to decide for myself. Some days, I am my father's child and feel religion is more of a curse than a benefit. Other days I totally believe. Kind of envy your single purpose.
    Regardless, it is neat that this season reminds us of our much loved fathers.

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    1. Patti-- How interesting that your dad exposed you to so many different belief systems. I think that's a very cool way to introduce kids to the world of religion and get them to think for themselves. It is a wonderful thing that this season reminds us of so much love.

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  5. I love the thought that Christmas is a day that you remember the loving kindness of your father. Thank you for the introduction to Alexi Murdoch. I followed up by listening to other songs by him on YouTube.

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    1. am-- My father would be so surprised if he knew that Christmas made me think of him. He would understand why though. So glad you like Alexi Murdoch. We loved his music and bought the album this song is on.

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  6. It's interesting that your grandfather, despite his gruffness, insisted on giving you some kind of Christmas. I wonder if it was a way to oppose your father? Or did he simply genuinely believe that kids deserved presents and a Santa decoration on Christmas? Either way, he built a memory in you!

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    1. Steve- Yesterday was the first I ever even considered why my grandfather was who he was. It made me wonder what his childhood was like that made him such an unforgivable human. I don't think his acts of giving gifts was to oppose my father, because that would have meant he actually considered the responses to actions. I wondered if his own childhood was so bereft of joy that those little gifts were attempts to recover a bit of his own glimpse of innocence. Seriously, I have no idea. I have thought more about his intentions these last two days than I have ever done over the past 65 years.

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  7. Your father sounds wonderful. Thank you for sharing him with us.

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    1. 37paddington-- My father was a wonderful guy. I've written about him on the blog many times over the years. He was good and kind-hearted in every way.

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  8. Just goes to prove the "Judaeo Christian" ethic is not the only game in town. Values, morals, and ethics are passed down by people who cherish them. There is no need to give any supernatural being the credit.

    Happy Holidays, no matter how you work them.

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    1. MRMacrum-- I like your perspective very much, how values, morals, and ethics are passed down by people who cherish them. Yes! Happy Holidays to you too. Nice to see you back in the blogosphere.

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  9. Can't say our Christmas was that happy either. My In-Laws invited themselves down and that put a damper on our celibrations. They desided to go back home(Scotland)on the Wedensday. Since then home life has been a bit happier for us. Hope you had a good Christmas

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    1. Bill-- Really sorry to hear about your less than happy Christmas, but glad that you are now enjoying life as the new year approaches.

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