Once upon a time there was a modern American family. HE was more or less a typically suburban male, working at a profession, interested in technology, reading and music. SHE was more or less a typically suburban female, devoted to her children, family and community, interested in movies, exercise and friends. While HE was Jewish and SHE was Presbyterian, neither was devoutly religious. And so their secular outlooks and lifestyles posed no problems, and indeed, offered up twice the usual number of chances to gather with friends and family to celebrate and eat the appropriate holiday fare, be it ham or latkes.
THEY also had two CHILDREN, boys about 3 years apart. When the CHILDREN were smaller, any holiday was an occasion to indulge in all the trappings of that particular celebration, be it chocolate bunnies at Easter or chocolate coins at Chanukah. For Christmas time, that most major of holidays, SHE liked to decorate the house for the season, with wreaths and candles and a tree with lights. The KIDS eagerly participated, and HE was happy to help as well. THEY even went so far for several years as to tromp through the snow and cut their own tree, an outing to which THEY all eagerly looked forward.
But as time went on and the KIDS grew older, the process lost its allure. And so the concession was made to buy a tree that had been cut by others, as opposed to doing the job themselves. In the beginning this was also a family outing, with different prospects being hauled out of the line and examined under the floodlights, until the winner was selected by acclamation and strapped to the top of the car. Once home, HE got it set up by the picture window in the living room and circled it with lights. The BOYS hung the ornaments, while SHE saw to the rest of the room and the other decorations, making it a festive place indeed.
Alas, like all things, this stage had its own lifetime as well. Eventually there came a time when one BOY was off on his own, while the other BOY lost interest in the process. As the holiday season approached, they stopped to pick up a tree almost as an afterthought. But rather than it being a collaborative effort, SHE was forced to basically do it herself, while HE and one BOY stood by waiting impatiently. After a few cross words, they left treeless, with hurt feelings and sadness all around. Seeking to make amends, HE offered to go out again with HER to get a tree. And while they liked the smell and feel of a real one, they decided to try an artificial version, opting for convenience. HE set it up, the BOYS helped trim it and SHE fined tuned it all, and once again there was festivity throughout the house.
Time went by, the BOYS got older and HE and SHE became empty nesters. The house seemed bigger than ever, with just the two of them wandering through it. Then once again, the holidays came, and it was time to open all the boxes and decorate. Since the KIDS were gone, the task fell to HER, with HE providing mere technical assistance to set up the tree and lights. SHE worked steadily, setting out the special cards she had kept, the special ornaments they had accumulated and the sentimental decorations made by the children when they were young. SHE grumbled as she did it, partly wondering if it were worth it and would be appreciated. But slowly, from an empty room that they almost never entered except to adjust the heat, emerged a festive tableaux that welcomed all who passed by or chose to sit and enjoy. And even HE agreed that it looked good and helped to make the season special.
And then in almost no time it was Xmas eve. The BOYS came home from places near and far. FRIENDS stopped by to share the season. HE uncorked the wine and poured the drinks. And SHE put dips and snacks for all to enjoy. And ALL admired the room and the spirit it conveyed. And wherever they came from and whatever they believed, they all wished each other a joyous holiday season, a happy New Year, and peace and joy, all in a place that helped to celebrate this special time of year.
(And remember: this is a work of fiction... sort of.)
Marc Wollin of Bedford thanks all for reading this space for yet another year. It is appears weekly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquire and online at http://www.glancingaskance.blogspot.com.