Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas From The Chicago to DC POV

This is my first Christmas not spent with my family. Sure -- we're Jewish -- but that doesn't mean this feels right.

I'm used to a "White Christmas" even though we don't have a tree. My mother grew up Irish Catholic (and later converted to Judaism before marrying my dad), so we always had stockings by the fire with a few gifts. There were even two years spent in Phoenix, Az. with my Christmas-celebrating Grandma Irene (may she RIP) where there WAS a tree AND presents AND cookies left out for Santa Claus.

I guess you could say my sister and I grew up with the best of both worlds -- Hannukah for eight days and some sort of celebration for Christmas.

Now -- that's not to say we celebrated the birth of Christ. We didn't. Not by a long shot. And no -- watching Midnight Mass with our mom on TV while we played with our laptops or dogs in the background does not count as celebrating the birth of our non-savior. Christmas to our family was a time to enjoy family.

My most recent Christmas memory includes the 45 minute drives to a near-by suburb to have a Lobster-pasta sauce dinner complete with cocktails, Apples to Apples, baked clams, and crazy antics.

Last year was our first Christmas without my dad. He was sitting alone, in Northwestern University hospital, waiting for a new heart and kidney. It had just snowed a pretty massive snow in Chicago and my mom wasn't exactly used to driving the mean streets after a vicious holiday storm, let alone the Edens Expressway.

I manned the iPod with my festive holiday my playlist including all the classics (Bing, Frank, Dean, The Andrews Sisters) and some recent newbies ('N SYNC, Christina Aguilera, Natalie Merchant, Mariah Carey). We even played Adam Sandler's "Channukah Song" -- that was always a Christmas Eve tradition in our Volvo on the way to the 'burbs.

But the ride didn't feel right. Dad wasn't there. And to think -- just a year before -- my sister and I were buzzed off champagne, embarrassed at how loud our dad's laugh was while playing Apples to Apples. We had no idea that he wouldn't be around for the next Christmas, let alone the next year.

This year, I have no idea what my family is doing. I'm in DC and they're in Chicago (or least, I'm assuming they are).

For the first time in my life, I don't have to call my Grandma Irene to wish her a Merry Christmas. It always felt like a chore back in the day, but now I wish I could call her ... if only to hear her festive chuckle.

I'll be spending my Christmas Eve and Christmas day in Alexandria, Va. But my heart will still always be in Chicago.

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