No one has talked tree since Turkey Day. But the calendar has turned to December so a tree we must buy. I pine for the smell of pine. I miss the imperfect bit of nature, imperfectly grown and decorate that lights up a corner of our family room – and our family.
“Where is the best place to buy a Christmas Tree?” I type into Google. I order a six-foot tree that will be picked out by strangers and delivered on Monday. Plastic is not our future – using plastic to procure pine, that’s the answer. This year, I’ve got it – I smile as the sun sets – wait, the sun is setting…. it’s time to light the menorah.
“Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who performed wonderous deeds for our ancestors in days of old at this season,” I recite only one of the three short blessings as I light the Shamash, then use it to light the single candle on the far right of the menorah my mother gifted us when she still visited.
And then, as everyone stares at the deli-made latkes and corned beef with hungry eyes—I whisper: “There are people all over the world doing this very thing. Millions of fellow humans are lighting candles just like we are. We are part of something bigger than ourselves, and God is the tissue that tethers us…”
“Mom, you say that every year,” notes my daughter.
“Yes, that’s part of what makes it a tradition – repetition.”
“And I’m hungry like I was last year, like millions of fellow humans…,” says my son, staring lovingly at the takeout containers, “and traditionally that means we eat.”
My husband smiles,“Okay, dig in.”
And we do.
“You know, we still need a tree,” says my daughter as we dine. Which is another family tradition, one that she is practices quite frequently: the pointing out of things that are lacking.
Yes, we are Jew-a-palians – we celebrate light and connection through two traditions.
“The tree – one that a third party will choose for us — will be delivered on Monday,” I smile.
“Oh, I hope it’s a good one,” says my husband – who I think would prefer to head off into the forest and chop one down for us himself.
“Well, that’ll save one holiday argument…” notes my son.
“Yes, yes it will. You’re all welcome.” No one is as pleased with me as I am. I guess that’s another family tradition.
No way that is six feet!” declares my husband as he circles the fir that’s just been delivered to our family room.
“Well…” I stare at the naked tree—which is 6’ if you measure it to its tippy top. I move the tree décor into the family room.
“Maybe mom got such a small tree this year to make up for the way too big one last year?” I overhear my daughter tell her brother as they walk past the tree into the kitchen.
“At least it’s real,” he replies.
Will I ever find the Goldilocks tree? Will I ever be or acquire anything that is “just right”?
“Dinner and tree dressing tonight,” declares my husband.
The kids moan.
“Yes, you’ll have to spend a couple hours away from electronics,” responds my husband.
“The horror, the horror,” I feign sympathy … as I begrudgingly put down my iPhone and start to unwrap the décor. I sneeze (who knew so much dust could collect in a year) we unfurl lights and rediscover orbs.
All faith traditions look for light in the dark of winter. Our light blends two faiths in imperfect trees, ceremonies and décor…. I am learning to accept that my family and I will never be as posh and polished as my fantasies for us are. Because though sloppy and imperfect we’ll make our winter bright. Together.