Monthly Archives: January 2016

Politically Correcting the Holidays

PC cartoonSo I have been thinking about my older grandson’s “Winter Sing.” I missed the younger’s “Winter Gathering” but the name alone was enough to keep me away. Felt like just another euphemism for tip toeing around the holidays in the schools.

The “Winter Sing” was definitely politically correct, perfectly bland, weirdly instructive but pretty much as they had billed it. We were there to celebrate winter.

Well, sort of.


Themes for each K-4 performance, to avoid stepping on any religious toes, were things like winter safety, the woeful demise of Native American homeland and immigration and entry at Ellis Island during the early 1900’s. Very cheery stuff to sing about, right? The songs were preceded by a short video produced by the classroom depicting their subject matter.

The first video included local firemen cautioning the children about falling through thin ice on ponds and lakes. A pediatrician’s nurse giving great detail concerning prevention of and proper care for frostbite. The school superintendent spoke about the necessity of school closings in inclement weather to keep the little ones safe inside, away from sub-zero temperatures and dangerous windchills.

I know.  I wouldn’t believe it either if I hadn’t watched with my own wondering eyes.

Next up was an uplifting series of old black and white photos of sad, hungry Native Americans ravaged by aggressive, selfish western settlers.  Dead buffalo.  Empty mud huts. And just when you thought is was safe to come out of those bleak and dreary woods, the third graders enlightened us about the horrors of the long boat ride for European emigrants to come to the United States. They spoke of disease and food shortages on the vessels. First class accommodations vs. lower class steerage. And ended with the saddest pictures of doctors turning twelve-year-olds away at Ellis Island if they were too sick to enter the country.  Sent back to their native land alone after mom and dad had passed the test and stayed.

At this point, my five-year-old was sucking his fingers and looking like he had seen a ghost and the three-year-old was cuddled into my underarm holding on for dear life.

Seriously, I’m not exaggerating here. You can’t make up shit better than this.

Somewhere between the slideshows there were some songs thrown in. I recall a version of the Pow Wow the Indian Boy theme song replete with tom toms sans headdresses. There might have been “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” God knows how his light bulb nose and Santa paws slipped into this thing. I know for sure we sang “Dreidel Dreidel.” To which an anonymous donor behind me whispered, ” It’s a folk song, not a Hanukkah song.” A fact I cross-referenced with my dear friend, an Orthodox Hispanic Guatemalan Jew. Yes, she really is. She without hesitation said “Dreidel Dreidel” is indeed a Hanukkah song. Guess that spun by the critics with old Rudolph.

The last performance was the fourth grade chorus in tie-dyed T-shirts singing “Don’t Worry Be Happy.”  Probably the only program choice in the entire sing that was appropriate. Because that was the one thing they did get across very well.  Worry.

So all in all, it was a mishmash of all things cold and woeful in winter and nothing vaguely cheery or bright or holiday.

As I left holding my grandsons’ hands and musing over what we had really just witnessed, a mother beside me turned and said, “I heard it was heavy.”  I nodded and pondered which direction had the closest ice cream sundaes with whipped cream Santa hats.

As chance would have it, I passed the director and said something subtle like, “You certainly covered some serious subjects in there.” To which he responded, “It’s important to be relevant in our teaching moments.”

Well on that one I have to disagree, Mr. Director.  What does a “Winter Sing” have to do with teaching or relevance much less Native Americans and Ellis Island? Can’t we just jump in that old one horse open sleigh and sing some happy songs? Dash through the snow and not worry about sinking into an icy pond or the tips of our fingers turning blue?  All of us in it together, bundled up and rosy-cheeked. With our Santa hats, yamakas and burkas blowing in the wind singing all of our beloved songs.

Celebrating our diversity rather than avoiding it.

Instead we celebrated nothing at all.

I’m pretty sure my grandsons can’t hum a thing they heard that day but I feel confident they remember the hot cocoa and candy cane cupcakes we had after.

Nothing like a good sugar rush to erase all evils.

I think for next year’s sing, I’ll stay home and watch paint dry. Or maybe the Kardashian’s. Vacuous as they are, at least they say anything they feel and think. About anyone or anything they think about.

I mean, of course, in between trips to the bank and reinflating their fish lips.



Getting it right

mom and dadI know I have been rather reflective lately. I hope in the New Year, my mind and thoughts will drift to higher ground.  Not less meaningful, but lighter and less laden with the world and the weight it can put on our shoulders at times.

I had a great holiday. It was full of family and fun and laughter and children who “believe.” Oh, that was the best.  The believing. And the wonder. “Go to bed, Santa is coming!”  “Oh, no, not yet. He won’t come if I’m AWAKE!”

Even stood in line for two hours for the best Santa I have ever seen. Gentle and patient; a real beard, a kind smile.

Then in the midst of hanging the boughs and decorating the tree and monkey bread and cheese grit souffle, I came across this photo of my mom and dad.  Oh man.  That set me back. I have been missing my mom especially this year.  It’s my first Christmas without either of them.

I have made it to 40 years of marriage but she made it to 64?  His dimples? I don’t remember he even had them. The suits. The pocket scarf. Their hair. Looking at the sepia image of my parents I realize, not for the first time, my mom did something right that I do not.

My dad thought he was the boss, but we all knew who really was.  Not sure he did, though.  They seldom argued. Except about money. He was quiet. She was chatty. He was a whistler. She loved to laugh. She was scattered, disorganized.  He was solid.  She was always late and dad was at the door jingling his keys.

She was the sun and he was our true north. It worked for them.

I look at the ease with which she touches his arm and think I do little with ease. I am worried or hurried or trying so hard to be “in the moment” that I make it so important, I am not there.

It’s hard to be a spouse.  Especially a good one. We fall in love and the clouds open, the stars shine through and no one or anything has ever seemed as special or amazing as the object of our affection. Days blur and our hearts pound at the sound of their voice. The touch of their hand and we are carried away to a land that we didn’t know existed.

Pure and simple and unadulterated young love.

We slip on our blinders and all we can see is this person, our mate we will choose to spend the rest of our life with.

And then we marry.  And start careers. And have babies. Build households. Build homes. Buy cars. And move. And our feelings of young love get buried in our daily lives, the bills, the ice on the driveway, the crying babies, the leaves in the yard.

We settle into marriage.  That crazy thing that seemed so simple when we said “I do.” Sweet and innocent we were to all that life would, and could, throw at us.

And in retrospect, that is why it works, this marriage thing.  We walk into it hopeful and starry-eyed, ready to conquer the world together.  And then we do.  We do the real “I do.”

We conquer it.  With all the bumps and curve balls and hiccups and doubts and messy stuff.  We do it.  Some of us fall away. Some of us don’t.  But any of us who try it and give it our best, should be proud.  It is not easy.  Not as easy as my mama made it look.  Or June Cleaver. Or Carol Brady.  Or Claire Dunphy.

It’s work.  Every single day.  To be a good spouse. A true partner.

Success or not, I work hard at being a good mother. But the wife thing, I am not always so diligent. Too much myself and not enough the person I’d like to be.

So on this beginning of 2016, I want to be a better spouse.  Not perfect.  Not award winning.  Just better.  In some way.  Go for the love, honor and cherish with a little more gusto.

And maybe, just maybe, I will throw in a little ease.

Even a smidge would be a start.