POINTSETTIAS & PARANOIA
“Can you get away from the window?” I hissed at Jeff.
“Why?” he asked, not at all concerned.
“Because they will see you!” I was explaining the obvious, and running out of both time and patience.
“Who? Who will see me?”
How can this man, who passed a bar exam in two states, be so obtuse? Was he simply playing with me?
“The carolers! The carolers will see you and they will come over and sing at us, and I will not be Christmas-ed at!” You know I was desperate when I verbed a noun, then ended my sentence in a preposition.
“What’s wrong with the carolers? Since when do you have a problem with them?”
Jeff had a point.
I usually have no problems with Christmas. I wish people a Merry Christmas, unless I’m feeling particularly Irish, then I wish them a “Happy Christmas.” I receive it back, and I smile pleasantly. I really want to tell them that “Jewish Christmas” has already passed, but it’s only funny to me. I enjoy looking at Christmas decorations, enjoy driving by lit houses, and, if the weather cooperates, love the cold and the snow of the season. I love the music, especially the classics, and even like the corny old cartoons. So why did I suddenly draw a line at small, mobile singing group?
I wasn’t sure, but I had an idea.
It was because they were on the move. Everyone else stood still. But the singers, they were mobile, they could chase me down — and just like that, the paranoia from the country left behind came back.
It does that, my paranoia. It comes from growing up in a country where for years and years, the government spied on its own people, and wasn’t even ashamed of it. Citizens were encourage to snoop, and report. And, sometimes, people got a knock on the door at night, and disappeared. I was almost 12 years old when we left, but I still remember the strange double echo on the phone, and when I asked my parents about it, they told me it was bugged. Why? Why would anyone listen to the conversations of an engineer and a nurse? Because they had asked to leave the Soviet Union, and by that act alone became traitors.
And if you think knowing that your phone is bugged when you’re a kid doesn’t mess with your head, you’re wrong. Now, if a car follows me for more than three blocks, I still change directions and don’t go the most direct route to where I was headed.
But the worst part is that my paranoia is directly linked to my highly sensitive “Jewdar.” I see anti-Semitism everywhere, even where it may be run-of-the-mill rudeness and disregard for others. It becomes heightened during Easter, when, historically, Jews were actively hunted in Eastern Europe because they were blamed for the death of Christ. I do like to spend Easter hiding out. Unless Easter Sunday falls on my birthday, which it occasionally does, I lay low. But Christmas was always blissfully free of my overactive imagination. Was is the operative word. The fervent revelry of the traveling pro-Christ singers, outside my own door, was changing that.
“What do you think carolers do?” Jeff asked. At this point, I was sure he thought I was having “an episode” of some kind. “Do you think they’re going to try to convert you through music … and then give you pamphlets?”
“No,” I said, petulantly. Of course, rationally, I knew they were going to do no such thing. I was still semi-rational but losing the grip on that fairly quickly.
“I just don’t want to take any chances and encourage it. It’s not my holiday,” I said. I tried to sound less petulant, but even to my ears I didn’t succeed.
“I think it’s a nice tradition — the old wassail bowl, good tidings, Sir, and all that,” said my husband. A fairly new convert to Judaism, Jeff obviously didn’t have the finely-tuned antennae for anti-Semitism that I possessed. But, by now, I was beyond reason, and far into the rabbit hole of my own making.
“You do what you want, and greet the roving horde, but I am going upstairs, taking the baseball bat, and getting into the closet. Make sure to scream loudly, I won’t be able to hear you otherwise,” I suggested, and made a dash for the stairs. But not before I managed to turn off the porch light, thereby discouraging the holiday singers.
They never did stop at our house. And they better not come back.