Christmas day felt like a jail sentence to a Jewish kid growing up in a largely gentile neighborhood in the sixties and seventies. When I was 4, my parents moved the family out to the burbs, away from Brooklyn’s dirt, crime and Jews. It was not their intention to remove us from tribe, but the trade off was a clean newly built blue collar neighborhood in which my mother could build a home. Ours was the lone house on the block without Christmas lights every December, the one with the large bay window sporting an electric menorah with blue light bulbs that turned slightly to the right to light up, each of the 8 nights. I remember both loving and hating the singularity of our tradition on this street in our town on Long Island.
But nothing compared to the boredom of Christmas day when there were no friends to call on, no malls to hang out at, no stores to browse in or anywhere to go really. My folks could not afford to take all 7 of us to the movies and only every once in a while we made it out to a Chinese restaurant. The day seemed endless, especially since I never watched much television and was not much of a reader before age 12. Time made its magic back then, elongating for miles in psychological hyper awareness and mental ticks to routine stuff I was not able to do.
Now, the opportunity to be imprisoned, pajama-clad in front of the fire the entire day, watching movies I did not know even existed, not cooking, cleaning or even eating most of the day winds down the year perfectly, like a day-long vacation. Permission granted, I laze and luxuriate in voluntary house arrest that whizzes by in the magical time of a slow-but-quick winter day. Gone too soon.