It’s a funny thing, being Jewish in December. Chanukah came early this year. Not Thanksgivikah early, but early enough that it still caught me off-guard. Whenever there’s more than a week between the last night of Chanukah and winter break, I get cocky. I feel like I’ve been given the gift of time. But that feeling is very short-lived, because in reality, there’s only one thing that happens when Chanukah comes early:
Everything else is still looming ahead. Every holiday concert, classroom celebration, and yankee swap is still to come. There are teacher gifts to contribute to in my pajamas, because that’s what I’m wearing in the middle of the night when I shoot out of bed, propelled by the realization that I was supposed to leave a check in my room parent’s mailbox. And just when the e-cal has been cleared of games and practices, someone throws in a playdown for good measure. Since when is that even a thing? Apparently in hockey, it is. It just pops up out of nowhere. If it had its own emoji, it would be snickering and sticking out its tongue at me.
And yet… I love this time of year. I don’t even mind the traffic, because it makes everyone 12 minutes late, giving me the appearance of being right on time. I love the chaos. I love the lights. I don’t ever remember wishing I celebrated Christmas, because I loved our own traditions surrounding it. I still do. Getting together with friends to help decorate their tree. Chinese food and a movie. And the creme de la creme… 24 straight hours of “A Christmas Story” on TBS.
There’s only one thing better than watching “A Christmas Story” until your eyes glaze over, and that’s watching Season 3, Episode 10 of “The Goldbergs”, ironically titled… wait for it… “A Christmas Story.” Beverly Goldberg is my hero. She acts how I feel. Jaden woke up early this morning and loomed himself a bracelet. I get choked up just thinking about it. I’m sorry… I have to say it again: Jaden woke up early this morning. Which meant he didn’t need to be yelled at, threatened, or dragged out of bed. He then proceeded to get himself dressed, brush his teeth, and engage in an activity that didn’t involve last night’s sports highlights. When he showed me what he was doing, I was blown away. I didn’t want to make a big deal, so I just said what any mother would say: “You are the the cutest little loomer in all of Loomland.” He didn’t look up, bat an eyelash, or miss a beat when he replied, “And you are the smotheriest smother in all of Smotherland.” The highest compliment. I am not worthy.
Beverly Goldberg is the consummate Jewish smother. She follows her kids to school. I follow my kids (and yours) to camp. She has really big hair and bedazzles everything. I had and did both of those things in the 80’s, and still would if I thought I could get away with it. She calls her kids names like “Shmoopy” and “Shmoo”. Same. She complicates everything, but she does it with the best of intentions. Guilty.
The most amazing thing about this show is that my kids love it as much as I do, but they love it for completely different reasons. They weren’t around in the 80’s. They miss most of the references. The scene where Murray Goldberg tries desperately to break Stretch Armstrong by stretching him is so hysterical, it became a gif. Before that, my kids didn’t know Stretch. And yet, this year he was gift #1 in the Pollack household on the first night of Chanukah. And he really has stood the test of time. Even the dog hasn’t been able to destroy him yet.
Then there’s the episode where Erica works at a karaoke bar. My kids laughed in all the right places… except one. They missed the best joke of all. They didn’t miss it because they weren’t paying attention; they missed it because they’re kids. Kids who would never think to question why the only song they ever play at this bar is “Jessie’s Girl”. Kids who have no idea that the crazy manager wearing a necktie as a headband is Rick Springfield.
It doesn’t matter why my kids love this show, just like it doesn’t matter why they love camp. If you ask your kids why they love camp, they’re not going to tell you it’s because they want to unplug. Or become more independent. Or see what we mean when we say that missing home and having a blast are not mutually exclusive. They won’t tell you it’s because they want to live with other people so they can learn to compromise and negotiate and work things out on their own. All of these things are true… really true… and they might be your reasons, but they’re not your kids’.
Your kids love camp for their friends and the counselors and the games and the field trips and the laughing and the singing and Henry’s milk and cookies. They love it because there’s nothing else like it. If Rick Springfield were to drop into the mess hall in the middle of Friday Night Songs, I can assure you that no one past the head table would even notice. That said, it would be really, really awesome.
Wishing all of you a winter break filled with warmth, love, laughter, and the smotheriest of memories with family and friends.