Season’s Greetings: A Message To All Of My Puppy Families
My Family’s Christmas Past and How it Affected my Decision to Celebrate Hanukkah.
The story I am about to share might sound like a clip from a movie but it’s a true story. It happened to my mother and 5 of my siblings. It is about how my mother shared the Christmas story with them, and how I came to know my family’s night of escape into a cold, dark night, several days before Christmas.
My mother was married to an abusive man and he fathered myself and my 5 siblings. He was relentless, and when he decided to expand his circle of abuse onto my siblings, specifically my brother, my mother said, “Enough.” She made the conscious decision to leave him, and one night in early December of 1965 she left him (while he was away) with my 5 siblings (ages 3-9) with me in tow. She was a couple of months pregnant with me. She didn’t know where she was taking us only that she needed to leave. She and my brother and sisters were living in Texas, and New Mexico was the closest state they could walk to. My mother had bundled her children up as best she could and she had a sweater and a thin coat on her back wearing a scrap of a dress and a scarf on her head. I believe I was the safest and definitely the warmest. After weeks of traveling and stopping to ask for shelter from kind persons, shelters, and missions, they made it on the 23rd of December in New Mexico. Along the way she was given names of people that she could call once she arrived to her destination. You might be saying at this point, “Why didn’t anyone offer to drive your family to New Mexico after having traveled 300+ miles on foot?”, and the answer is simple: She never wanted people to hold anything over her head if she couldn’t pay them back.
My mother’s back story: My mother was a hidden child during WW2. During the war, kind nuns came into the school to save the Jewish children and they were hidden in convents. My mother (I learned from historical records) was taken to Spain from France and hidden there and later some how ended up in Mexico. Whilst she was saved, her parents were sent to Bergen Belsen concentration camp.
This brings me to how she knew the Christmas story. When they arrived, my oldest sister (8 at the time) said, “We could see the lights of the town, and there were colorful shiny lights in houses, we asked our mother why there were so many.” My mom said, “It’s Christmas, it’s a holiday where people put trees in their houses with lights.” My mom never understood the tradition of the tree. She told me once, “It’s strange,” as she looked at our Christmas tree, and this made me giggle, because I wondered why it was in the house! At the time I was about 14 years old. She also told the story of Mary, Joseph, and the Christ Child, and of His birth. She used to tell us, “The rocks sang His praises that night, and the animals couldn’t keep quiet with the miracle that had come down from the heavens!!” This was always so beautiful to hear.
My mother and her children found a small, abandoned shack that stood for longer than it should have. It had “windows” but minimal glass. She was happy because they had “shelter,” from the cold. One iron bed with a feather mattress that all 6.5 persons slept on for a few years but were content. During this time, my brother befriended a butcher and he would ask for dog bones from him. He would say, “I don’t want my dog to go hungry.” In the beginning, the butcher thought he was telling the truth but as time went on, he realized that his family was the “dog,” so the butcher in his kindness would leave more and more meat on the bones. This made my mother very happy and she could never finish the story without tearing up. The following year, my brother (10 years old) managed to get a job sweeping up pine needles at a local Christmas tree lot. Close to Christmas, he surprised all of us kids with a tree. I was a baby of 5 months old (I don’t remember of course), but my sisters said, “We had a tree like everyone else!” So our brother propped it in a corner, and that was our lovely Christmas tree.
Many years later I came to understand my mother’s Jewish heritage which is part of me too, and even though she couldn’t share the full details of her life, she was always grateful to all of the people that impacted her life and ours too. Well into her 60’s, she finally said, “No more Christmas trees.” She never understood why it was a tradition but she always thought it wasn’t right. She instead put up a nativity scene, where she got it from she never told us. It was faded and some pieces were broken, but it was taken care of and kept safely in an old trunk wrapped in silk handkerchiefs after the Christmas season. When we asked where it came from she would say, “Oh, I don’t remember.” Maybe, the nuns gave it to her. Up to the time she quit putting up a Christmas tree; it was a tradition for my brother to provide the tree for her. This wasn't because my mom couldn't afford it, but because of what he did several years earlier.
My desire to celebrate Hanukkah is simple: It honors my Jewish heritage, my grandparents, mother, the struggles of the Jewish people and how hard we’ve had to fight for our religious freedom. How wonderful my S-vior is and throughout the terrible early days of my mother’s life and her family’s struggles, she still had so much to give her children, and she saved us like she was saved. G-d was/is still watching over me and my family. This is why I celebrate Hanukkah.
🌲Season’s Greetings to all of you that have impacted my life for the better.