The Holidays Are Here!

I know that I am probably supposed to be the curmudgeonly Jew who reluctantly put up with the season of American excess and bacchanalia and is breathlessly grateful when New Years signals it’s completion and a return to normal American consumerism.

Yeah, that’s what I guiltily expect of myself as well.

But I have a confession to make and I might as well make it here and now while I still have your attention.

I LOVE THE HOLIDAY SEASON!

There, I’ve said it.

I get onto the bandwagon the first of November and ride the Turkey bus through Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving! I like to make pilgrim hat place cards, search endlessly for recipes I’d like to try (even though I always make the same thing the same way year after year), watch the Macy’s parade with Evan and, of course, our traditional viewing of the quintessential Thanksgiving movie – Home for the Holidays!

I just love it.

Maybe because I don’t celebrate Christmas I just sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds and fun of the season. I love the tv cooking shows – I am especially addicted to all the Unwrapped shows where Marc Sommers goes and tells us how candy canes and turduckens are made. I like the kitschy Christmas movies like The Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit to watching White Christmas and Christmas in Connecticut a few times every year.

I certainly have my Hanukah but I also am well aware of the nature of the celebration. It’s a small holiday in comparison to our High Holy Days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippor or even the fun and very festive holiday of Purim that most American Jews just ignore sadly.

I decorate a little and we light our own chanukiot and exchange small gifts. I make latkes and other special food items because for me, its a great time to try out all kinds of new recipes (even though I always go back to the old standbys like a good brisket!) I buy donuts and we play dreidel.

Christmas comes and finds me like it does countless other American Jews with a plate of Chinese food and a movie in front of me. I can’t say I am not bound by tradition now can I?

The holidays wrap up on New Years Eve when we have another big party for our little family with cocktail food and punch as we watch more tv and then race to see who can be the first to bed before the New Year.

It’s a great season for me. I am too poor to really be able to spend money on gifts like I was once able to so I sit now and knit presents that I think are cool and definitely made with love. I plan how to make Hanukah sparkle with homemade and dollar store decorations that Evan and I can make together. I stick cloves into oranges and I bake cookies while the snow flies outside.

It’s a nice time and a time I really enjoy.

So there…you have it. My confession.

No, I am not all of a sudden pulling a big, Griswald-sized Christmas tree into the living room. And no, I am not planning a trip to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap to whisper what I’d like under my menorah while perched on his lap.

What I AM doing is just enjoying each day as it comes and enjoying a time of year that is going to happen whether I welcome it or not. I have great memories of Christmases from when I was young. I can’t deny that now that I am a Jew. I don’t think it would be healthy TO deny that.

So I am embracing everything I am. The little girl who still has that look of wonder at the shiny lights and sparkly tinsel all around and the grown up girl who knows her boundaries and can still enjoy it all for what it is.

Thoughts on a Four Poster Bed

ikea_midsommar_600I took a nap in my bed…oh how well I slept. I am so happy to have my furniture here. I feel so…complete.

I have the most wonderful man in my life. I thought yesterday how he is absolutely the best man I have ever known in my entire life. He is so even and steady. Nothing upsets him.

Whereas I was ready for blowups on moving day reminiscent of past moving days…and I was nervous and edgy all day in anticipation, no matter what didn’t go the way we expected, nothing ruffled Scott’s feathers. Everything was okay and he made sure I was okay throughout it all, knowing how upset and nervous I was.

The main thing was how much care and love he showed just for me. I knew how much he loved me and I told him how special it was to me that he cared enough to bring all of the little things that were so important to me to our home.

I don’t own much and most of what I own isn’t really worth anything. But it means a lot to me for whatever reason. A dining room table where I spent happy holidays. A buffet and armoire I used to polish lovingly. A bookcase where I stored my beloved books. A bed I bought to get myself off the floor.

As pieces not worth much at all but as a whole…worth everything to me.  And the very simple fact that this wonderful man, who loves me so very, very much felt I was worth enough to take the time and the trouble to bring it all to me so that I could have these small, worthless things…means all that much more.

I am so very lucky and even that much more blessed to have him love me.

Six Words That Define Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

I subscribe to writing prompts and yesterday’s was to describe your current life situation in six words so here’s my stab at that.

Content in my four poster bed.

My first purchase when I came back from Israel and one that meant the very most for me was my bed. Prior to that I was homeless and a vagabond sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Having a bed frame and getting off that floor was a step up…literally and figuratively.

I had already met Scott because when I found the bed on Craigslist for cheap, he borrowed his daughter’s van and went with me to parts unknown to get it and the box spring that came with it.

We brought it back to my house….yes, the one without running water or sanitation…that I was basically homesteading off the grid in… and I remember the fun night we had figuring how to set it up with no instructions. It was an Ikea four poster white metal bed and I loved it. Sleeping in it that first night was heaven. To be off that floor and in a real bed was empowering a move that I can hardly describe in making me feel human again.

Not long after Scott decided that the conditions that I was living in were just too deplorable and offered me space at his house and I moved, leaving my bed behind.

And it was this past Thursday that finally, we were able to move not only all of my other furniture – an antique buffet, my dining room table and chairs, an antique armoire, a bookcase (can you have too many?) and a dresser for Evan – but also my cherished bed to my new home, finally leaving all of the horrible past that happened to me when I first returned from Israel behind.

So yes, those six words sum up how I felt yesterday very eloquently – content – very content – in my four poster bed.

Settling In

Up to this point, I have been rebuilding my own life from the ground up. Rebuilding inside and outside. Therapy has helped on the inside and for the outside I have acquired shoes and clothes and lots of books and yarn.

This week I have taken a new step in the rebuilding process.

I had some of my furniture still left in my old house. It hurts me so much to be there that I cry tears of such pain every time we have to go there. Scott and I had planned to get the boys to help and on Thursday this week, we would move my cherished furniture from my old house to my new house — the house Scott and I share.

I was entirely too upset to be a part of the “festivities” so I stayed home and worried myself into a migraine and upset stomach while the move was made but I was so happy when they arrived home and everything was brought inside.

We celebrated with pizza and donuts and by putting our bed together last night. We couldn’t get the box springs up the steps (they say that love grows best in small houses but come on!) but we still had the slats under the mattress so until we can get a set of separated box springs, it works.

In the meantime, there’s a lot more storage space which after rebuilding with clothes and shoes and books and yarn, I need a LOT of. AND there’s a lot of organizing, rearranging and homemaking to do.

And that, I think is the next step in my rebuilding. When I was out shopping last evening, I looked at tablecloths and bedspreads and dishtowels instead of clothes and cute socks. I think I am moving onto thinking of things around me and outside of myself.

I am moving onto making my house into my home and that’s a huge step forward for me…a long way from where I was two years ago and yet, a long way still from where I hope to be in two years.

There is a difference though that is the key. This time around I have dreams and I see myself in them.

Childhood Memories

I know we are all used to those posts filled with bright green grass, sapphire green pools and brightly colored hair ribbons hanging off perfectly curled ponytails swinging behind the gossamer curtains of childhood memories mixing with the smells of vanilla and strawberry and all those special things which take those writers back to perfect childhoods.

And those are very good posts…they’re just not MY posts and, really, they never WILL be MY posts.

I thought a lot about it today. What is my favorite childhood memory? Do I even have one? Do I have ANY happy memory?

While it’s well-known I don’t have a lot of memories of the years between 4th and 12th grade (and thank Gd that my best friend Christine keeps those memories very much alive for my son Evan for me…and keeps them for me when I am ready for them) – I have memories of my young childhood. I remember where we lived, where I went to school, the kind of saddle shoes I wore in third grade (black and white as opposed to brown and tan which is the kind I REALLY wanted), my brownie uniform that I wore every week to school and then walked to the Methodist Church in town for our meetings.

I remember the house we lived in, the year we lived with my grandparents and everyone forgot my birthday and then got me an old applesauce cake from the Thrift Store after we had supper. I hate applesauce cake to this day.

I remember the year I had a skating party for my birthday and I got beaten afterward. Beatings on my birthday were kind of expected. That particularly birthday I was also raped by an older boy who was visiting us. Later I was beaten for that too because, of course, it has to be a just-turned-8 year old little girl’s fault right?

And along with that I remember the same house and brutal beatings, the blood and the police who came as the sun rose and the broken glass and the screams going unanswered. Cries for help echoing in the subdivision in which we lived, blood curdling screams as faces were broken, glass was shattered and little girls were scared into silence.

Yes, there were happy times I suppose. I have seen some pictures that other people have. I don’t have any. My sister took all the pictures long ago and never gave any to me. She says I don’t belong to her family and so I don’t deserve any.

Whatever.

Maybe if I had happy pictures I’d convince myself it was all happy even though in my heart I know it really wasn’t. But I am also not so jaded as to think it was all bad. I know that everything is not so black and white.

But could I pick out a sunshine and rainbow moment of happiness that was all encompassing that involved time with my immediate family? Let me just say I qualify this only because I did spend so many happy moments with my grandmother and it was only with her that I can say I ever felt truly safe and happy. So my question then becomes and the question I have been framing is…

Do I have a happiest moment from the childhood I spent with my mom, dad and sister?

Sadly, the answer is no. I can’t for the life of me really think of one. And yet, there were opportunities. The Harlem Globetrotters Game, Disney World, so many opportunities.

But each opportunity that I think of was tainted either by a violent fight or by some other situation that had no business happening.

I don’t really know how to say this other than to just come out and say it. I can allude to it and it’s hard to just say. I can’t freely talk about it yet but if you want to know why I have no favorite childhood memory, this is why – being molested can ruin everything that ever comes after it. No matter what that “everything” is…nothing will ever be happy again no matter how happy it seems.

Remember that.

Memories – Tic Tacs, Velveeta and Baseball

I spent every summer with my grandmother to the point that a lot of my childhood memories revolve around the things that we did together and the memories I have of her.

I remember the blankets on the beds – blue flowery bankets edged in teal satin.  Her perfume – that dark brown, “grandmother” perfum from Estee Lauder called (interestingly) Youth Dew.  Her Adorn hairspray.  The aluminum gliders on the porch.  Fireflies in the twilight.  The tree in the back yard.  The peonies in the front yard.  How she would sneak a cigarette on the back porch while my grandfather was working in his study.  Laundry day and the laundry chute.  Sewing with her in the basement.  The way the books in the basement smelled and being scared of what really was behind THAT wooden door down there!

She, my grandfather and I would sit on their bed and watch the Pittsburgh Pirates play baseball on KDKA every night they were on.  If they weren’t on we would listen to them on the radio and if it was a really special night, we would go INTO Pittsburgh to see the game at Three Rivers Stadium!  I loved each of those nights and love the Buccos to this day!  I can still hear her kvell about her favourite players.  When I was an exchange student in New Zealand the Pirates made it to the World Series and not only did my grandmother send me Heinz ketchup that year but she also send me all kinds of Pirate memorabilia that was in all of the stores so I wouldn’t miss out.

She was a home ec teacher and taught school for 30 years before she retired.  My dad decided to take bartending school in Pittsburgh so while he would be in school, my grandmother would teach me to sew.  I made a really geeky polyester outfit but the time we spent together making it remains priceless. I wish I had a sewing machine even now because I love sewing that much.  When I was little and lived with her before my mom married my dad, my grandmother not only dyed her own shoes…she also made all of her own clothes.  That’s some serious respect you’re seeing from over here!

I still have her teaching cookbook which I use a lot.  Her favorite recipes are marked in it.

One thing though she couldn’t stand were vegetables and the way she choked them down was copious quantities of Velveeta melted on them.  I was basically starved at home since my parents were never there and school lunch was our only meal most of the time so this delicacy of Velveeta and broccoli or french cut green beans was like nectar!

And as far as I was concerned, her only really bad habit was her smoking.  I think because of it I can jokingly say she became addicted to Tic Tacs.  I know now that when I pop one in my mouth, that sweet vanilla mint outer coating makes me think immediately of her.  The smell of Youth Dew wafts around me and my grandmother is right there again.

I hope she knows how many memories she gave me and how very much I miss her.  She is so much a part of who I am and tehe person I have become…more so I think than even my mother.

Tic tacs, velveeta, baseball and everything.

 

 

The Biggest Disappointment

I have been thinking a lot the past few days.  Usually this leads to a very dark place that I have a hard time coming back from.  I so very don’t want to ever go back to that place ever again.  Often when I find myself headed to this place these days, I just shut down the thoughts and go to my happy place and lalalalalala…..it doesn’t matter anymore.

But sometimes the dark side creeps up on me.

What I am thinking about is my biggest disappointment.  That, of course, is and always will be having to leave Jerusalem.  Despite all of the wonderful things that have happened since, and I don’t want to say they are any less amazing or wonderful, leaving that city will always be the biggest disappointment of my life and one I can never fix.

Of course that leads directly to a situation of lashon harah (something very bad which was said about me by someone else to many people, regardless of whether it was true or not, who then believed it carte blanche without question because the person telling them wanted them to – take it from me, as our sages say, the evil tongue, lashon harah, does kill a person when it spreads and it never should.)

The worst case of this spread of lashon harah is when it was told to my father.  Today I had to accept that without question, without asking me, without any doubt whatsoever, my father believed it.  I had to accept today how very much this has hurt me…how truly deeply it sears my soul to not be believed by my very own father and worse, to have him automatically believe the worst of me without ever even conceiving that he should even believe the better.

This takes me back to when I was 17 years old and some piece of scum walked into my father’s nightcluband told him I was “the best he ever had.”  My father came home and beat the living shit out of me with a razor strap.  It happened without warning so quickly I barely even knew WHY I was being beaten and defense?  Absolutely none.  And mercy.  Really?  I was guilty without a trial.

And that’s how it remains today.

Guilty without a trial.  It’s just like it was when I was 17 – and my father’s opinion of me has never changed.  For a man who molested me, this is actually….well, I don’t even know what it is.

Today I had to accept all of this.  And obviously I need to act on it but I don’t have any idea what to do.  I didn’t have therapy so I didn’t have a chance to talk to my therapist – that will have to wait a week.  In the meantime, I am just going to process it and not worry about what to do about it.  I am going to let it sit there.  I am not going to roll it over and over and ride with it under my arm to the dark place.  I’ll just wait a while until I can talk to Kellye and then I’ll know what to do and I’ll act on it and send it on it’s way.

This is something I really don’t want to think about.

This is betrayal at it’s very worst.  It’s betrayal, lies, deceit, it’s a whle lifetime of what I had built up in my mind as support from my father that never was and all that “never was” just crumbled away….I guess.

But as unreal as all of that was – the hurt is VERY real.  I am devastated.  I am shot through with devastation.  I am lying on the floor, curled up in my grief for what I thought existed and never did.  I am once again afraid to trust, afraid of people, afraid of the world.

And I know it had led to both a setback and a step forward.  Hopefully they will cancel each other out.

Time will only tell.v