The other day at Brownies, we talked about traditions. The girls went around the room, naming their own, and I talked a little about Hanukkah. (That wasn’t on the agenda, but I whined after I heard the troop leader say she was going to have each girl put an ornament on her tree. It’s hard being Jewish-ish, as well as the Jew Who Loves Christmas and the Mom Concerned Her Kids Will Be Heathens — all at once.)
Annabelle was so psyched to share her Hanukkah tradition, and even Sophie wandered in from the playroom to show the group how she holds her hands over her eyes the way our 10-year-old friend Anna does, for the candle lighting and prayer. Sophie looks like the youngest-ever cast member of Fiddler on the Roof when she does it, always cracks me up.
I’ll join the temple next year. Swear to god. Or, um, whomever.
Back to tradition. That little talk at Brownies got me thinking. We have a few traditions at home, sure. I hang the same stockings on the same hangers on the same fireplace every year. But not as many as what I’d refer to as “normal people”. For one thing, we can’t decide on a tree situation. The little silver one still hasn’t come out of the box. This morning I heard Ray tell Annabelle we’ll get a big green artificial one, and my heart sank a little.
“You know, it’s like how you always say you’re going to live in Manhattan your whole life and then things get expensive and you have kids and you move to Brooklyn,” I explained. He looked at me blankly. Ray grew up in Queens and couldn’t wait to get out of New York entirely. He doesn’t watch “Sex and the City”. Anyhow, Brooklyn’s cool now, so the analogy doesn’t work anymore.
“Oh, whatever!” I said. “Can it at least be a small one so it doesn’t look like we’re pretending we have a big live tree?”
Yes, it can, he said.
I have always wanted my life to be like the movies — the “When Harry Met Sally” holiday scenes, the dance parties that are part of every chick flick, and that inspired our chocolate dance parties at home. But it’s hard at the holidays in a place like Phoenix. Still, some days, it happens. Like yesterday.
Yesterday Annabelle honored a tradition, by attending a gingerbread house party. We met these friends in kindergarten, and this is the third house party. The mom who throws it is amazing, puts Martha to shame (let alone me) and this year mixed it up by designing a new house template.
“You noticed!” she said when I commented. Of course. I notice every bit of it, all the attention to detail that goes into creating her own tradition. Here in the desert, we have to do that. There are no snowy scenes of cute blonde Meg Ryans dragging trees, nothing you know from the movies.
But sometimes it’s better. We rushed off from the houses to the botanical garden, to meet up with more dear friends and see the annual luminaria display. It’s one of the things that made me fall in love with Phoenix, albeit in my relative old age, my mid-20s, when I moved home.
It’s different now. The luminaria are in plastic (safer that way), the musical groups fewer (cheaper that way) and now you can get just about anything you want to eat at the multiple cafes (more commercial and okay, more convenient that way). But the hand bell ringers still bring tears to my eyes.
“Wasn’t Zach in a stroller the first time we came?” I asked Trish. Yes, he was. And next year he’ll be driving. Annabelle, Sophie and Abbie zoomed across the dance floor and Trish pointed to a couple in the corner — her body a little lump, hair mussed; his head a little too small for his body.
“Don’t they have –” she asked. Yes, they did. And they were fox trotting better than I ever did in Junior Assembly.
Someday maybe I’ll take Sophie and her boyfriend (or girlfriend) dancing at the luminaria. That’s a tradition I’d love to start.
For now, I’m going to figure out that tree situation. Oh, and temple.