‘Tis the season. The season to assert my Jewishness, like, hard. Christmas season. Okay, let me correct that. I don’t actually need to assert my Jewishness per se because I am Jewish AF as far as ethnic identities go, but it’s my kids. Take the Catholic spouse and add to that NOT living in Brookline, MA where people wish you good Shabbos on the street just based on your punim (and I’ve got the absolute right punim), and living instead in a place with church on every corner, and you get kids who are fundamentally confused.
Normally, it’s easy to keep Christmas out of my house because we celebrate it with my husband’s family, usually in Spain, and it’s easy to keep it separated and to explain how different people celebrate different holidays and that we’re a (mostly) Jewish household. But last year, we weren’t going to Spain until New Year’s, and actually purchased a Christmas tree, so there was already a Christmas invasion.
(And let me just add that it was all very confusing for me because as a child in Communist Russia, we had a New Year’s tree every year, and I feel all kinds of nostalgic about it, and when my husband suggested a tree for the first time, I had a hard time protesting, and was excited, and then disappointed when I realized he’s against real trees, the ones that smell delicious, because of all the needles he would have to clean up. So, at BJ’s, I’m like, hey, fine, if we’re getting a fake tree, can we at least get like a wild disco tree? Like a white or a pink one?? But it was $300. So we got a boring fake green tree for with built in lights for $50. So lame. So. so. so lame.)
And it’s not enough to deal with Santa coming to the town winter fair and having to grit my teeth and bite my tongue to avoid telling my kid that hey, that’s probably Mr. School superintendent dressed up, and Santa isn’t real because it’s a money making construct, now there is also this fucking elf thing. Yes, the elf thing. Last year, apparently, my son’s classroom got the Elf on the Shelf. First of all, the idea that some pigmy creature with a lascivious smile is watching your every move and reporting back to an omniscient old mad, who will then decide the destiny of your gifts and happiness, to promote good behavior in children seems pedagogically wrong and just creepy. Secondly, I don’t care that the Elf isn’t religious and came from a movie, it still represents Christmas (you know, the holiday with Christ in it?), and is it really appropriate to have that bitch in the public school classroom? And third, I was just pissed because my obsessive son was immediately like, “Can we get an elf? Can we get an elf? Can we get an elf? Can we get an elf?”
Well, actually, first, he started having nightmares, and when we probed, he explained that he was afraid that the Elf was watching him. And at first, we were like, “What Elf, dude?” And that’s when he explained that they had one in the classroom and that he was scared of it. But that didn’t keep him from asking for one constantly.
I called the teacher and told her that he is anxious and not sleeping because he thinks that some fucking mythical creature is spying on his every move, and the teacher commiserated, and the Elf said good bye to the kids and went to visit other kids… somewhere underserved instead, or at least that’s what she told the class.
Apparently, instead of alleviating his paranoia, this triggered a whole other wave of anxiety in my kid. “Where did the Elf go? Why did the Elf have to go? Will the Elf be coming back?” The teacher said he was frantic.
And at home, “Can we get an elf? Can we get an elf?” intensified, to the point where I was like, “OMFG NO!”
And he said, “WHY NOT?”
I said, “Because we are Jewish!”
“Then let’s get a Mensch on the Bench!”
Like, how the fuck did he know that they made a Mensch on the Bench for the Jewish kids to torture their parents? Damn you, Target, for displaying that shit to try to be inclusive!!! Being Jewish is a get out of jail free card for ridiculous holiday shenanigans, don’t you know that?! Plus, it’s like… a little racist…
“The Elf on the Shelf is a money making scheme, and The Mensch on the Bench is something they invented so the Jewish people would also be tricked into spending money!” I said.
“That’s not true!” he said. “The Elf is magic! It moves by itself! At night!”
“Buddy,” I pleaded, “It isn’t real, the parents move it.”
And my husband was like, “WHAT DID YOU DO. Now he’s gonna tell his friends and all the parents are going to hate you.”
I told him, “Are you kidding me? The other parents will thank me on their knees!”
But it didn’t make a difference, because my son didn’t believe me. In fact, he went on his iPad and showed me a video of the Elf “moving by himself,” his dystrophic body doing the army crawl across someone’s kitchen counter with those boneless legs dragging lifelessly behind him as proof that he was magic.
“Monkey,” I begged, “That is stop time animation!”
But it was no use. He wanted the Elf so badly, that if we weren’t going to get one, he would make one out of paper. And he did. And I had to stare at it until we actually left for Spain for New Year’s, at which point I told the cleaning lady to discreetly toss it in the trash.
I was sooo relieved when last year’s Christmas season was over. I really thought we dodged a bullet with the Elf.
It looked like I might be right, too. He didn’t ask for the Elf once!
Wait. Let me correct that. He didn’t ask US for the Elf once.
No, he didn’t. Because he already knew we would say no.
He did ask my dad, though.
My innocent dad, an adoring grandpa whose only wish is to see the grandkids pleased and appeased. Apparently, this kid said, “Deda, if I’m very very good today at hockey, can we go to Target to get an Elf on the Shelf?”
And my dad, thinking, “Score! Free bribe!” said, “Certainly!”
So I get home from call, and come immediately face to face with this giant box and the Elf’s snide gloating face, like, “You thought you could overpower the temptation of ME? muuaaahahaha, stupid woman.”
And I stumbled backwards, and I had a cold sweat trickle down my spine, and I feebly tried to protest that the Elf is going back to the store, but… it was no use. His power was too great. I got my four Menorahs out to combat the elf, but… he is there.
My only consolation is that the way my kid went about getting the Elf was so fucking Jewish, that I feel like I can worry less about his ethnic identity.
Le sigh… Now I gotta go move that Mofo somewhere to keep the magic going. It is expected that he will magically move at least twice a day. And maybe once in the middle of the night.