So this is Christmas…

December 25, 2007 at 12:05 pm Leave a comment

Last night, around 11:45pm, standing outside a place people flock to. The devout would (and have) kill for an opportunity like this. Midnight mass in the church that was built around a small hole and a dark cave. The place where this huge divide started – Jew and Gentile starts here. And somehow, this place, it’s impact skipped right over my adopted identity and reached all the way to Asia – to Korea. It changed my homeland and set the founding stones for this awkward divide within me. I can feel the events of thousands of years rush through me. Its a chilly night – this has become what I call “chilly” anyway. The candles trick my mind into feeling warmth, but my nose grows pink as I stand outside the gate with my cell phone cold against my cheek. Something feels so familiar about this voicemail I am leaving and it strikes a series of reflections that I am trying to suppress. It’s not strange to any of the passerbys that I am standing here, but it is strange to me.

“I love you. Bye.”, my fingers tighten to close the phone (Samsung – made in Korea) and tuck it into the pocket of my black wool jacket – the one Ajumma said not to wear anymore. I should rush back in an find her. The growing crowd will make it nearly impossible, but I am not afraid anymore. I am not afraid of not being able to find her. I’ve grown up and I wont allow my insecurities to worry me anymore. So I stay standing, outside the gate, and I allow the reflections to pour into me and wash over me until I have forgotten that I am standing at the gate of a powerful place and the birthplace of a nation of peoples.

As a child, Christmas meant two things. 1. A box of chocolate and a plane ticket to Georgia for Gladys that I would wrap up myself. 2.Chinese dinner at Peter’s restaurant “The Pagoda” in Eastchester. The first was such a warm feeling. Gladys, our live-in maid, was not hired to be my nanny (June was hired for that purpose), but who spent most of her time telling me stories about her life and the life of others she knew. She didn’t like chocolate (I did!), but she did enjoy going to Georgia every winter for a week to visit her mother who was raising Gladys’ daughter there. She had to be back before New Years Eve – when we would go up to “The Club” in the mountains for our annual New Years celebration. The second memory was a lukewarm feeling. “What are we going to do today?” I’d ask my father, hopeful that this year would bring something new and exciting. “We’re going out to have chinks,” he’d reply. Yiddish was his native tongue and it wasn’t until college that I really came to learn that the word “chink” was derogatory. Peter was a good friend of my grandparents – their only Asian friend. So two things were certain about Christmas in my childhood: I would pick a dress to wear that I thought made me look very white and Peter would be sure to bring an extra bowl of Chinese mustard for my father who loved to dip the crunchy noodles in it. “Its like eating a knish with Brown’s mustard,” my father would say as he inched the fried noodle towards my lips trying to convince me to eat one and like it. My head would turn, lips pursed together, and I would glance around Peter’s restaurant ….. every table filled with another Jewish family.

Somewhere during the reflection of mid-adolescent-hood jeans and a sweatshirt for dinner at Peter’s a stranger asked me for the time and I was jolted back to reality. Peter’s Pagoda restaurant faded into the black of the night around me and the candles’ glow pulled me into the gate to find Ajumma. I was right not to worry, I found her almost immediately and I kneeled next to her around that small hole that would change the world way before I was to attempt to find my way through it. I glanced over at Ajumma – her flat profile barely noticeable behind her thick self-made curls. I couldn’t help but to think how odd it is that Peter’s Pagoda would feel more comforting right now than this place right here.  

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Entry filed under: Adoption, Judaism, Me.

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