Saturday, December 16, 2006

nights of lights

Happy Hanukkah everybody. This is night two, light two candles tonight. Last night was night one, light one.

I went to SK's party even though I had resolutely determined that I would not go to SK's party. SK and I are on another one of our famous declines and I haven't always enjoyed the company of her friends. Not to mention, I am shy, frazzled from studying, and still sad about my grandmother.

I made a plan with the long-lost Waspy and we met up downtown very close to her workplace. I ate a heavy plate of mashed potatoes and meatloaf and drank a dark beer. I may as well have poured concrete into my stomach. Afterwards, I went to Powell's to browse and regroup.

I was standing in the "D" aisle, looking at the rest of the Dostoevsky collection (I'm reading The Idiot right now and wanting to put it down everyday, but something keeps me reading it), when my phone rang. It was SK's friend Rhea (my second encounter of the day with a Jew named Rhea...), calling from the party to encourage me to come. How could I say no to Rhea? I couldn't.

I left Powell's, got in my car, drove to SK's, and there I was. The house was packed and they were all just starting to eat. I, also, was packed and the thought of food was actually nauseating, though it looked like a cultural experience I shouldn't miss (what with all the latkes and cabbage and applesauce).

I went downstairs to SK's living space to put my bag away and use the toilet and I was overcome by the urge to hide. All those people up there, all settled in, having such a nice time, eating so much food -- sounds nice now that I write about it, but last night it was pretty daunting. I spent way more time than necessary in the bathroom, contemplating my options, when Rhea appeared in SK's room with the only kid at the party, so he could show me his toys.

It was sweet of them to come rouse me out of my near-fugue state. I went upstairs, got a glass of wine, and stood by the door just watching the bustling crowd. There were more than enough friendly faces in that crowd, including Dr. Dutch, one of my oldest friends in Portland, so really I had nothing to be afraid of. I had a few nice conversations. The wine was good.

Soon we lit the menorahs (menorim?) and many sang the appropriate songs and prayers while many others sat and listened and appreciated. I was among a handful of other distinguished goyim, though I must have "the look" because I am often mistaken for a Jew. I'd be happy to have been a Jew, it would certainly have beaten the Christian upbringing I had instead. And with an emphasis on education? And so tolerant? I wish I'd been a Jew, but I guess that's an annoying side-effect of being brought up a fucking WASP (yes, Waspy, me too), we long for the "culture" we don't have and ignore all the rank and privilege we do. It's almost disgusting and a rant for another time.

Regardless of my being amenable to Jewishness, my abstention from eating caused many to remind me how *un*Jewish I really am. I sat on a stool, drank my wine, listened and watched (behaving like a cultural anthropologist as SK suggested to help allay my shyness). Pretty soon we played the white elephant game and I dominated with my machiavellian strategizing, although I made only one heartlessly calculating move and then, later, when the harmonica I got and lost and got back was taken from me a second time, I just let it go gracefully and took a prize I knew no one else would covet. I love the white elephant game.

Sooner than I would've thought, the whole thing was over and after a quick round of clean-up help, the house was empty of all but it's rightful inhabitants (SK and Dr. Dutch) and me. We finished the cleaning and went right to bed. My head was heavy with too much wine and I slept restlessly, dreaming a million strange dreams.

Now I am home studying but can hardly stand to study another second. My eyes are bleary and my brain is fuzzy and I need a nice break activity. I'd take a long, hot bath and read my book, but I did that already this morning. I guess I could do it again, but that just seems pathetic. Maybe I'll walk to the store. I'm out of half-n-half and I need to drop off some library books. It will be nice to get some exercise.


Anonymous Rhea said...

I got to read the account of the party here. How very interesting. You know, I always wanted to be a WASP. Funny, isn't it? I am Jewish. But the whole WASP thing with all the generations of family and the oil paintings and the nice simple surnames. I like all that stuff. Like you say, the things we don't have always look so attractive.

10:18 AM  
Blogger reasonably prudent poet said...

i don't have any oil paintings, but i certainly do have generations of family and it is perhaps the biggest thing i take for granted. i have generations of family and land that has been in my family for generations. because they drive me nuts and because i'm not straight or christian anymore, i have moved thousands of miles away from them, but that doesn't erase them. sk, whose father survived the warsaw ghetto, whose whole family was otherwise wiped out in the holocaust, has helped me to see my redneck georgia family as the huge, hunk of privilege that it is, whether i like it or not. thanks for writing, rhea.

10:33 AM  

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