There is something in the air; whether the chill, the scent of pine, the lights, the cards, the dreidels, the snow. It can’t be helped. Tis’ the season! You can’t resist it. Something in us is turned on that brings us back in time.
I remember Pop going out on Christmas Eve and coming home with a tall scrawny tree and dragging it down the hallway of our railroad apartment. Needles everywhere. My mom, my sister and I cleared the corner of the living room to stand it up and decide which was its best side.
My sister supervised the ornaments as she was the artist in the family. To her horror, my brother haphazardly threw tinsel all over her masterpiece. I put the snow (a white sheet) under the tree along with mini Santas and reindeer and finally the tiny manger. It was the same each year for as long as I can remember.
At The Greens at Greenwich we are sharing stories of the holidays daily. Christmas was wonderful for Beverly. She left cookies and milk for Santa and waited up as long as she could to say thank you, but always missed him. “He always knew what to bring. It was always a white Christmas in Greenwich”, according to Beverly. “Greenwich was so beautiful with snowmen and snow balls and all sorts of snowy things”.
And what about Hanukkah? Adele told stories of real candle lighting in the lower east side apartment she recalls sharing with her parents and her two brothers. “Mamma would light the candles we lit the night before because they went out. We needed the oil for cooking and not candles.” The memories bring her back to the Bowery and all the warmth and safety she felt there.
Nathan never lit candles. “I remember hiding being Jewish in Germany, especially during Christmas. When we lived in England after Germany there was no hiding, but there was no Hanukkah.” Nathan lights the candles now at The Greens at Greenwich and tells the story of the Maccabees. He is a natural storyteller. He also enjoys leading Hanukkah songs around the candle lighting which evolves into Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Hanukkah and Christmas live in the same memory for Nathan and today they blend together in harmony.
Remembering the beauty, the fun, the family and the food…or not, is a part of the season for many. It could not all have been whimsical and magical. I believe that we tend to adjust our memories at times. Perhaps song and love and friends and family help in adapting our reminiscences. I like that my memory transformed what must have been a chaotic scene around a pathetic tree into a joyful Christmas eve. Beverly recalls every Christmas being white and every gift being perfect. Adele’s cramped Bowery apartment and the non-miracle of the Hanukkah of her childhood is now a quaint and warm memory. Nathan’s trauma in Germany and life in England, enduring anti-Semitism, has empowered him to reframe his story.
Ah, the precarious nature of memories. They are so clear and true to us. They are born of all our senses and sensibilities. In time they are polished and become precious with time. They need to bake in the heart and soul before they become golden. They will rise without a conscious thought. They are reminiscences carried through time and held carefully to be spun golden for the retelling.
Happy holidays to all and be sure to share your golden spun memories.
-Maria Scaros, Executive Director, The Greens at Greenwich