Saturday, March 22, 2008

Christmas With Nev: A Nevin Barich Holiday Blog Special

Having a Jewish mother and a Catholic father, my girlfriend Ramona and her family celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas. This weekend, I spent a lot of time with them in the days before Santa arrives to give us our multitude of presents. Growing up in a quasi-Jewish home (where, though the Jewish holidays weren't exactly celebrated in excess, there was no Christmas stuff to be found at all), spending time with Christmas folk is always eventful for me. Observe:


OK, I will never understand the seedy culture that lurks behind the "happy" tradition of hanging ornaments on the Christmas tree. I mean, it's vicious!! If any ornament says "Ramona," only Ramona can put them on. If any ornament says "Marshall," (Ramona's brother) only Marshall can put them on. So all that's left for me to put on are stuffed bears and your generic colored balls, which I can't for the life of me hang without breaking at least a half a branch.

And then comes the hanging of the star on the top of the tree. Now to me, the father should always be the one to do this job because a) he bought the damn tree; b) he brought it into the house (which is no easy task, I might add); and c) HE BOUGHT THE DAMN TREE!!!"

But every year, at least one person (usually under the age of 8) wants to have a go at this task. And rather than sit that person down and say, "No, that's a job that Dad/Uncle/Grandpa gets to do," we humor the little rugrat, put them on MY SHOULDERS (because despite being just 5-11 -- and if we're being honest, it's a "listed" 5-11. I'm closer to 5-10 -- everyone else is short) and fail to get the star on. Why? Because the little kid couldn't get it done!! Oh sure, we say it's because the kid's arms were too short. But we know better: It's because he/she couldn't handle the pressure!!

Then the dad grabs a chair or step ladder, goes up and puts the star on. But you know what? By that time, the moment has passed.


So some of Ramona's relatives from Oregon were in town, among them 7-year-old Cora, a very intelligent girl for her age. Anyways, Cora and I engaged in the card game Uno (which I'm sure many of us remember from our early years).

As we begin, Cora mentions to me how she beats her mommy and daddy all the time. However, Cora was about to learn that life beyond the homefront isn't always easy.

First game: I immediately play all my yellows, force Cora to grab 8 cards when she has no reds, and end the game with a blue card she never saw coming. Game time: 3 minutes.

"Welcome to California, sweetheart," I tell her, giving her a little wink."

Cora looks a little shaken, realizing that her world of "Happy happy times where she always wins and pixie dust is abundant" isn't as rosy as she seems. Nonetheless, she gets herself together and we play again.

I beat her in a minute and a half.

Cora looks confused.

"But...I always beat Mommy and Daddy," she says.


She then started to cry.

The Uno Circuit: Not for the faint of heart.


I also got to spend some time with Ramona's 18-month-old cousin Ayala. Now this kid is amazing. In a span of 17 seconds, she asked for cookies, carrots, to be held, thrown into the air, for her dad to play guitar, and for me to crack my knuckles because she liked the sound.

"Anything else we can do for you?" I asked.

"Water,"she said.

She'll probably want me to dab her forehead as she drinks.


Speaking of Ayala, she kept asking me to read her this book about piglets. But every time I started to read, we never got past page 3 (where the pigs are making snuffling sounds) before she'd wander off to do something else. Then, when she'd hand me the book to read again, I would try to start where I left off. But she always made me turn back to the beginning. It was a vicious, vicious cycle.

Finally, when she handed me the book yet again, I said enough.

"No Ayala," I declared. "If I am going to take the time to read you this book on piglets, then you in turn must have the respect and decency to listen as I read to you. Because my time is very valuable, and when you wander off, that mean's you're not respecting my time or me in general. So if I read to you, you must listen. Now certainly, if you have any questions during the course of the reading, you may ask and I will do my best to answer them. But that's the deal. Do we have an accord?"

She stared at me awhile.

Then she waddled to the couch.

Then she waddled back to me.

And handed me a book on chickens.

Naturally, I began to read.

Naturally, she wandered off after Page 3.

Now we'll never know what happened after the baby chicks ate their seeds.

You know what? It's her loss.


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