As I microwaved a frozen glob of homemade fruit puree this morning, I couldn’t help but search for some “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” on YouTube. A balmy 12-degrees Celsius in Rehovot – in comparison to the 3-degrees in my hometown East Brunswick – there was, as per usual during my past six winters in Israel, little hint of Yuletide in air. Yet as I sat playing with my nearly 11-month-old son, not only violating Shabbat but ignoring the fact that Chanukah, too, would begin this evening, my fingers automatically typed in my favorite Christmas melodies.
Sitting with my little son as he banged on his wooden xylophone, intermittently sticking the spherical ends of the sticks into his mouth, I realized that he would never sing along with “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” or “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” unless I stepped in. Just like my favorite works of Charlotte Bronte, George Orwell and Jane Austen, these silly – but admittedly catchy – songs would be foreign concepts to him without my influence.
I chose to move to Israel and carve a life out for myself here – a life that ultimately brings me joy, with a fulfilling career, Israeli relatives and friends that have embraced me and first and foremost, a wonderful husband, son and cat.
Yet this year, as I watch my son grow at warp speed and share with me his profound thoughts, like “Da-Da,” I remember that his childhood will be strikingly different from mine. No less fulfilling, but strikingly different.
Already, he prefers to clap his hands to “Mechi Mechi Kapayim” over “If You’re Happy And You Know It Clap Your Hands.” No matter how much I speak to him in English, his instincts are always going to be to operate in Hebrew. For now, though, I’ll continue to flip through the pages of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” with him, in hopes that he catches on. Next year, perhaps he’ll be reciting the words with me.
And tonight, when we kindle the first candle for the opening night of Chanuka, recite the prayers and sing “Maoz Tzur” together, we might just have to add in some “Jingle Bells” for good measure.