Out of the manger and into the fire
Needless to say, we signed up for this whole family-gathering thing before C. invited us to the sumtuous Oregonian coastal vacation house.
The result? We drove for nine hours yesterday. Nine. Hours. Seven hours from the Oregon Coast to northern Washington State, and then two hours back to Seattle after dinner with Alaskan cousin in tow. RW drove all of it. She is a rock star.
We did stop for more oysters in Southern WA and put them in the fridge! O happy, happy me.
Mermaid Girl was a trouper. She sang, napped, drew, snacked, discussed important issues with the many dolls she'd arranged around herself.
On the way home after dinner, I sat in the back with her so RW and her cousin could talk. And the following discussion ensued:
Me: *noticing that MG is finally starting to get bored* Why don't you ask me any question you want, and I'll answer it?
MG: Where did Christmas come from?
Me: Blah blah winter dark thousands of years even before Christmas people always blah blah lights sweet-smelling green things remind us that the sun will come back and plants will grow.
MG: But where did Christmas come from?
Me: Well. *biting bullet, reminding self of promise--already broken several times--that I will always be honest with my child* A long time ago, there was a woman named Mary. And she had a husband named Joseph. And she had a baby growing in her tummy. And it was getting ready to come out. And they had to move for some reason [*I'm Jewish, I forget exactly why*], and they tried to stay in an inn, that's like a hotel, and there wasn't any room, so the hotelkeeper said they could stay in the manger, that's like the stable, where the animals were, and sleep on the straw. Do you think that would be very comfortable?
Me: Right. But they stayed there anyway. And that's where the baby was born, that night, and they were very happy about it. But here's the thing: You know how a woman can't grow a baby by herself, she has to have a speck from a man?
Me: Well, a lot of people believe that Joseph had never had a chance to give a speck to Mary. And so, a lot of people believe that the speck came from God, and that baby was really God's kid, and that's why they believe that baby's birthday is special and made the holiday called Christmas to celebrate it.
MG: *entranced* I believe that! I believe that speck came from God!
Me: *in a blind panic, forgetting the promise I also made to myself that I'll never tell my kid what she can think or feel* You can't believe that! You're Jewish! Jewish people don't believe that speck came from God, only Christians do! And Mama and I decided that you'd be Jewish! We believe the speck came from, um, Joseph really! Or someone! But not God! When you're grown up, you can believe whatever you want, but for now you, um, you can't!
MG: *getting pissed* But I do think that! I do believe that! I'm a Christian!
Me: *sputtering* But... but... if you're a Christian, you can't have Chanukah, and candles, and...and...chocolate gelt!
The chocolate gelt did it, I think; also, RW chimed in that she doesn't believe that story either, even though she's not Jewish.
Then I went on to fulfil MG's requests to describe the origin of Chanukah [even though, come to think of it, I don't exactly believe that story either] and also, God help me, Thanksgiving. She didn't accept my harvest festival explanation, having gathered by this point that holidays come from actual, or at least apocryphal, events. So I spilled the story about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, with many qualifiers about how I wasn't sure if this was exactly how it had happened, and how afterwards when lots of Europeans came they were very mean to the Native Americans in many ways and so Thanksgiving was actually a very sad day for most Indians now and not a happy holiday at all, even though we, um, sort of celebrate it anyway by thinking of things we're thankful for. But we're sad with the Native Americans. But thankful. But sad.
I left out the part about genocide per se. Also the reputed connection with Sukkot, a Jewish harvest holiday she learned about in Hebrew school. But it was pretty exhausting anyway. Somewhere in there we went back to Christmas, and RW reminded me that Jesus was actually born in March and the Christians moved the holiday back to December to take advantage of the solstice/holiday-of-lights thing. So I threw that in, too.
By then it was hours past Mermaid Girl's bedtime and she was starting to babble (I was obviously already babbling), so I was spared having to explain other exciting holidays, like Yom HaShoah (though I kind of covered that already a few months ago, with similar lack of panache). Or Easter.