A SERIOUS TALK WITH BONNIE

 I feel this is a perfect opportunity to air a grievance still fresh in my mind.

Although we are indulgent dog parents, we don’t sleep with dogs. They outnumber us two to one and the bed isn’t all that big.  Moreover, they hang with us on the loveseat in the living room and in the offices from morning till we toddle off to bed in the wee hours. The bed is ours. Ours alone. I refuse to feel guilty about it. Okay, a little guilty, but only a bit. We have enough trouble getting comfortable without trying to maneuver around you dogs.

Not to mention the dirt and fur that inevitably accompanies our beloved beasts. We have a gate across the hallway. We close it at night when we go to bed, confining our poor, oppressed pets to the living room, kitchen and of course the yard via the doggy door. For the 5 or 6 hours during which I try to catch some Zs, it’s No Dogs Allowed. You guys — yes, I mean you, my black-furred miscreant — know this is our time alone. You know perfectly well that when the gate is closed, it’s “give them a rest” time.

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Except last night, Bonnie, you didn’t feel like sleeping and proceeded to fling yourself at the gate. The whole house shook. I’m surprised you didn’t knock it right off its hinges. The howling and barking and yapping was bad enough, but this was like an earthquake. Totally uncool.

Bonnie, my beloved Scottish Terrier? Listen up. If you persist in flinging yourself at the gate through the night, it isn’t biscuits you’ll get. Just because you’re bored and think 3 am is a grand time for a romp and a treat, doesn’t mean we humans agree. You are going to wind up in a crate. Worse, I’ll take away your computer privileges. You won’t be able to use my laptop anymore. You know I can do it, darling Bonnie, so don’t test me. Last night, you were a wicked Scottie.

When you rousted me out of bed for that fourth and final time — was that just about 4 am?– you knew I wasn’t coming to give you a cookie. Because you ran out the doggy door and didn’t come back until I’d gone back to bed. How did you know I was mad at you? I didn’t say anything. The first three times you got your dad, then me up, you snagged a biscuit. That was supposed to shut you up. How did you know this wasn’t another goody on the way?

But you knew. You ran for the yard. Interesting. Was it the sound of steam coming out of my nose and ears? Or just the way I tread the floorboards?

Bonnie, my darling. You do that again, tonight — or any other night — and your spoiled rotten little life will be in serious peril. Do you understand? Don’t laugh at me. I’m serious. I’m mad at you!

CHRISTMAS FROM THE OUTSIDE

Being a non-observant Jew is effectively no religion. It isn’t like being an atheist because it doesn’t imply a belief in no god. My mother was an atheist. I understand what it means. To me, atheism requires as much certainty as any other faith. You have to know something you can’t really know. It’s faith, even if it’s faith in nothingness.

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Given my upbringing and personal preferences, I’m mildly uncomfortable celebrating all religious holidays, including Jewish ones. I feel as if I’m wearing someone else’s clothing. Even when they fit well and look good, I know they aren’t mine. Every year when Christmas rolls through town flattening everything and everyone in its path, I bow to its power and supremacy. I enjoy the lights, music,  gifts and season while remaining aware it isn’t my holiday. When everyone is sharing their warm fuzzy memories of Christmas as a child, I have no equivalent memories to share. Not of Christmas or any holiday because my mother, atheist that she was, celebrated nothing. As a kid, I yearned to be part of Christmas. All my friends had trees and got a zillion presents. I would wander around to my various friends’ houses, stay a little while, aware I wasn’t really welcome. Then I would go home. I felt so left out.

When I married my first husband, his family was almost as religious as mine. They were pretty sure they had been — at some point in the past — something, but they weren’t sure what. They celebrated Christmas with enormous energy and enthusiasm, without any bothersome religious overtones. It was an alcoholic’s dream holiday featuring eggnog that might actually kill you. And very tree-ish. My father-in-law hauled in the biggest trees I’ve ever seen in a private home. Paul Bunyan would have been impressed.

That first Christmas (1965), they pulled out all the stops. They had a Jew to entertain. How exciting. A new audience. Jeff passed away twenty years ago, but his mother — she will be 104 in February — still sends a Christmas present. I have one in the living room right now waiting to be unwrapped.

The nine years I lived in Israel gave me perspective. There was no evidence of Christmas. Chanukah was a holiday, but not like Christmas. Passover and Sukkot were big festivals. It was comfortable to be a Jew in Israel. That sounds redundant, but the freedom to live by a Jewish calendar was no small thing. Even if you were entirely non-religious, you didn’t feel the pressure to be involved in what is — theoretically — a Christian holiday, but is — as practiced — Pagan. I like the Pagan part.

Basically, I have no religious affiliation. Jewish by ethnicity and history. And I know a lot about Judaism, admire it, but I don’t practice it and never have. I thought seriously about practicing it but it didn’t fit better than anything else. I’m skeptical of everything, certain of nothing. I have no answers.

So to all of you, Merry Christmas. Have a cool Yule and a grand Solstice. Whatever you celebrate, please — enjoy it! I’ll sing along because I know all the words.