As a Jewish woman, I have great ambivalence about Christmas. There are things I love about this time of winter, about the hustle bustle of people getting ready for their holiday, the lights, other things. At some point in the season, usually Christmas eve day or Christmas day or in the planning for one or the other, I completely fall apart– angry, hurt feelings, lonely– one thing or another, but never good. It’s situational– which is to say, whenever it happens– when a new day comes along, or sometimes after two new days, I feel different, better, much. Nonetheless, Christmas seems hard, at times, on each one of us, and I try to plan for things that will work well for us to do and for some down time for us.
One great thing that we’ve found to do, or rather it found us, is our upstairs lesbian neighbors’ annual Christmas Eve open house. And though it has a number of things to recommend it, for starters, what could be better for a woman ambivalent about Christmas, than a party which doesn’t involve a coat or parking? Nothing, that’s what.
My neighbors have a daughter (a stepdaughter to one of the two women) who’s here about half of each week. She is a grade ahead and about eight months older than my daughter and the two girls are good friends. Our shared hall and stairwell have meant many impromptu visits– sometimes in pajamas early in the morning or last thing at night– which have been a wonderful part of apartment living.
The two women are good friends and also the kind of neighbors a person dreams of– helpful, generous, welcoming. R. is a marvelous artist whose actual artwork is interesting and ever evolving, and she brings a love of community art to every event of the social variety. Several years ago, there was a pretty big pack of kids at the party and somehow they started throwing crumpled paper or packing material at one another– and R. came up with the idea of a “snowball fight”.
The next year R. and her stepdaughter and our daughter worked together making snowballs for the party– there are about 100 snowball sized pieces of wadded up newspaper, spray-painted with white and glittery paint– to about the shape and weight of a snowball. You don’t get that bitter cold sting when it hits you in the face, nor the wet puddles afterward, and most importantly you don’t have to have snow on the ground to have a great snowball fight.
At some point in the party, we get the signal and all who are up for it– usually a group of younger adults and of young people–head for the hallway and a snowball fight ensues. With teams. Last night the way it lined up was girls against boys with about four young adult guys and one 11-year-old boy on the landing between third and fourth floors and with my daughter, our young friend upstairs, me and several other women working together from the 4th floor landing to pelt the guys. The fight is vigorous and yet the spirit is undeniably sweet and good-natured– but with a killer streak to it too. No one gets hurt, there is screaming and laughing and yelling, and team spirit though there are no particular rules. The halls grow noisy, there is no scoring system and everyone has a really good time.