Thursday, March 13, 2008

Danny Ross: "A Jewish Christmas" ( Part 2)

12/24/07 Christmas Eve

I awoke this morning to a delicious smell wafting through the door and into the basement. As I ascended the staircase into the kitchen, my senses were engorged with the savory and sweet all at once, as if Ratatouille himself was at the helm. It was then I realized that this was no ordinary breakfast. This was Mama Heinemeyer’s world famous eggbake. Picture it now: a warm square of egg deliciousness smothered in cheese, mixed with ham, and topped with bread crumbs. I had nearly three servings before nausea started to settle in, but mmmmm good!

After a healthy breakfast, there were two pressing items on the agenda: 1) Buy ugly Xmas apparel at the thrift store 2) Take pictures with Santa at the mall.

Let me first give credit to the Heinemeyer family for being ridiculous enough to indulge these Jewish Christmas fantasies. After our stint at Savers, I changed into my new holiday gear in the mall bathroom and walked out a true gentile rock star. Sporting a snowman sweatshirt, red turtleneck and a bad haircut (it happens to everyone), there I was, moments away from meeting Santa!

I mean how can you resist this guy? Have you seen a bigger jew in your life? And wow, what an impressive looking Santa for such a barren place. I mean shit, that guy looked like Santa. Waiting in line among the other toddlers, I would be happy just to shake hands, take the picture and relive that moment in my memory forever.

But as I approached Santa, with my over-anxious smile and jittery legs, I nearly fell over with excitement. The 4-year-old South Dakotans truly knew they were witnessing a freak of nature. Finding a cozy seat next to Santa, I sat readying my smile for the camera. But something was wrong. I heard screaming. There was some sort of technical error. The film would have to be changed. What was happening?

And so there I was, sitting next to Mall Santa, awkwardly waiting for Ms. Clause to change the film. My palms became sweaty. “Soo, where ya from?” I nervously spoke. “Busy time of year I bet? Hehe….” I was beginning to think that perhaps this was the real Santa, as he sat silently grinning. He made no response. Still, nothing was happening.

Utterly and inexplicably determined to engage in mindless small talk with this man (part of my Hebrew instinct), I continued. “I’m from New York. Just here with the girlfriend’s family…It’s funny, ya see, cause I’m actually Jewish. Yep, it’s my first Christmas. You probably don’t see that too often out here!...Ya know, I bet you and me have a lot in common.”

Looking back, I don’t think I’ve seen a more utterly perplexed face in my life. But he was a jolly old man, as predicted, and those awkward few minutes were worth this priceless photo:

Now it was gift exchange time, woo! I don’t know if it’s standard practice nationwide to do it on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, but that’s what we did. I watched as Grandma opened her “Studs N’ Spurs” male model calendar, Mama H opened her “Pigeon Poop” candies, Ross got the Planet Earth DVD set, and Dezi dog received her brand new outfit. What a stunner! Most notably I got a new Woody Allen book. That figures. (Actually, I asked for it)

Then it was off to the airport to reclaim my luggage, which as you remember from Part 1 of the Xmas Blog, was hurried away in a snowstorm never to be found again. And so it was to my surprise that my oversized red bag was sitting there when we arrived. No paperwork, no fussy stuff. Just off I went.

And so I changed into my wrinkled suit in the backseat of Mama H’s Honda Accord, stretching my lanky limbs around to everyone’s dismay. We were on our way to Madison, South Dakota, a 40 minute trip, to see Dani’s dad, and to attend my first-ever church service

Heading up, we absorbed the new Radiohead album, “In Rainbows,” which upon first listen sounded like the most accessible recording they’ve done in years while keeping their weirdness intact. I particularly liked the song “Nude.” As you can imagine, it was pretty awesome listening to this music as we drove past the frozen plains.

Arriving at church, we immediately saw Dani’s ex-boyfriend. How wonderful that was for me. It turns out he still lives in Madison, a quaint town of 6,000 people. Apparently he’s been hanging out with Dani’s family even after Dani went to college and dumped the poor guy. For example, he stores his motorcycle next to Mr. Heinemeyer’s in his garage.

We found our way to the pew just as Christmas service was starting. The pastor got up to make his sermon: “I’ve seen the Christ child. You may not believe he was the Christ Child. But I saw him. I knew it was him. I looked into his eyes...the Christ Child” And then like a Conan O’Brien character, the large man with glasses behind me, with a deep-throated, nasally Irish-tinged voice lunged into “O Holy Night.” It was truly a service for the ages.

Overall, though, the whole affair was less gaudy than I imagined. There weren’t talks of mayonnaise or Nascar. It seemed pretty normal. After all it was a Lutheran church, not Catholic.

We ended the night with a viewing of “National Treasure 2,” a hollow but intensely entertaining movie, stuffing ourselves with popcorn and Sour Patch Kids. Then it was off to bed we went. Ah, I love Christmas. And it’s not even Christmas yet…