A Christmas Lesson


Written by Grinchella Grincherstein.

Rated PGHere is how I remember my first Christmas:

It is 2006, and I am 18 years old. I am en route to JFK airport, an enormous suitcase in the back, bulging with flannels and thermal underwear and several woolen socks.

The roads, uncharacteristically empty, are cracked and bleached, and the car is rimed with salt and frost. It is letdown weather, day-after weather. There is no snow on the ground.

My father is annoyed at having to drive two hours to the airport—“they couldn’t have left out of Newark?”—but he is proud, I think, that his teenage daughter has chosen to spend her winter break touring the death camps of Poland. The hollow, ravaged places of our history.

I fiddle with the radio, and then I remember. December 25th. No wonder the streets are so apocalyptically empty.

“Hey, it’s Christmas!”

My father looks at me, confused. “So?”

Christmas registers as an absence.


It is 2007, and I am 19. A girl I like has just informed me that she doesn’t think that what we’re doing constitutes dating. I am wandering Times Square, hating the bright lights, hating myself. There are no tourists massing the square, no one to bump into and jostle against. The shops are closed and the lights blink and flash for no one.

Christmas registers as a silence.


It is 2009, and I have threatened to festoon a Christmas tree with Jewish ornaments. “How about a Magen David as a tree topper?” I suggest. “And Herzl’s face on all the ornaments? Guys, it’s ironic.” (College was bad for me. It made me annoying.)

I desist when I realize how much it costs to buy and bedeck a fir tree. I’m moving to Israel next semester, anyway. I’ll have to clear all my stuff out of my apartment for my subletter; no sense in adding a tree to the list.

Christmas registers as a joke I didn’t play.

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