Cloudy and cool all day, but dry. As always, dry. Until we were getting ourselves out of the house to walk down the street to the parade. Then mother nature decided it was as good a time as any to release the drizzle, which turned into a steady, cold rain by the time we got to Ventura Blvd.
We took soggy shelter under the awning of a bridal shop and waited for the festivities to begin. And waited. And waited.
Being a New Englander at heart, weather doesn't phase me much. I am a classic "we walked to school, uphill, both ways, barefoot, in four feet of snow! And we were happy to do it!!!" person. As a teacher, I knew not to expect snow days unless there were at LEAST three inches of snow on the ground and numerous traffic accidents reported by 5am. Had superintendents been any more lax with their school-canceling criteria, we'd have been going to school until late July. I once drove 12 hours in a blizzard, up and over the mountains of Vermont to get to a boyfriend at Ft. Drum, in Watertown, NY, and was psyched to have gotten a head-start because my school was let out early due to inclement-weather (read: white-out conditions).
When I moved to Washington, DC, I had a good laugh at the expense of people there who freaked if snow was so much as mentioned as a possibility in the forecast. Just a good threat of snow would cancel school (the original preemptive strike) and empty grocery store shelves of bread, water, milk and canned goods (because apparently nothing says "snowed in" like a cold minestrone soup sandwich and a glass of room-temp water?). I once enjoyed a fabulous "rain day" during my first year teaching in Maryland. Nothing like having the mall ALL to yourself because it's rainy and cold outside. The tiniest flakes of snow fluttering to the ground would send DC-area drivers into veritable tizzies, during which they drove, on the highway, at speeds of 15-20 miles per hour, to avoid the onslaught of the wicked flurry.
But here, we don't even consider snow, although Wikipedia does say it snowed 2 inches here in 1932 (I guess they aren't including the wedding day of "Father of the Bride", the sappiest, weepiest movie of all time). So I guess rain has to be the great weather phenomenon for us here. When it rains, people here behave much the way they do in DC when it snows. Traffic slows down to a crawl and all usually normally functioning brain cells take a hiatus; accidents increase, people accost eachother on the sidewalks with their long-neglected umbrellas and shoddy umbrella-using skills--seriously, in DC, 500 people can walk down the sidewalk with umbrellas open and not one bumps into each other. Here, I imagine emergency rooms throughout the city, full of people clutching at their eye balls, having had them practically poked out by another person's umbrella in a sidewalk collision. It ain't pretty.
Anyway, tangent aside, the parade finally did start, rain be damned (actually, the rain stopped, which I figured it would because it never seems to rain for more than 15-20 minutes at a time here). And here in the land of superficiality and special effects, mere miles away from the home of arguably one of the country's greatest parades (Tournament of Roses, anyone?), was the rinkiest, dinkiest, small-towniest Christmas Parade known to man.
Aldermen and city councilors waving from the backseat of their convertible Toyotas, an elementary school class tossed into the back of a pick-up truck that had been strung with lights, singing "Joy to the World", a local high school marching band, playing the Battle Hymn of the Republic (so festive, right?), brownies and cub scouts troops walking all askew with their den keepers herding them into a reasonable amount of street space. And of course, no small-town parade would be complete without some local business renting a car, decorating it and driving slowly down the street, pelting children on the side walks with candy--in this case candy canes which shattered into a million choke-sized pieces in their plastic wrappers (standby for awesome 'Ethan choking on candy cane' pic, coming up).
Of course the finale of the parade was the jolly man himself, waving to the kids from a white carriage being pulled by a white horse, making him look more like he was on his way to a royal wedding than to his toy factory at the North Pole, but whatever. And thus enters my dilemma for this particular holiday season--Santa.
Last year, I hemmed and hawed about being a Jew with a "Christmas" tree. We made peace with it through what I call the "great blue and silver compromise"--our tree is decorated in traditionally Jewish colors of blue and silver (should be white, but silver is more festive and close enough). Sure, I have an unhealthy love of Christmas songs (much as I wish it did, "the driedel song just doesn't do it for me) and I HAVE to watch at least 20 hours of the 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon on TBS on Christmas day. But we don't hang wreaths or display green and red anywhere, so no one is going to mistake us for a house of Christians. And of course there's a menorah in the window and potato latkes burning on the stove. Holiday identity crisis solved!
But this year, Ethan is very aware of this fat, white-beared man clad all in red and "ho ho ho"'ing his fool head off at the mall and the end of parade lines. How do I explain to him that Santa brings presents to little boys and girls all over the world, but not to him because he doesn't believe in Jesus? I realize I'm not the first non-Christian to struggle with this dilemma and I'm sure that thousands of better Jews than me have either bitten the bullet and been brutally honest with their little ones, or come up with far more creative and self-esteem enhancing reasons why Santa doesn't visit little Jewish boys and girls, but honestly? I just want to see Ethan's eyes light up and see him revel in the joy of this time of year. That's really all I care about.
I believed in Santa as a little girl and it didn't make me grow up to believe in Jesus or anything like that. I might not be the most practicing of Jews, but I do believe in my religion and that has never waivered (aside from the brief and clichely inevitable dabbling in Buddhism after college), in spite of eleven years of Catholic school. I figure if I can withstand the browbeatings, I mean promises, of eternal life promised to me by Srs. Joan, Yvette, and Eleanor, Ethan can probably spend a couple of years believing that a man in a red velvet outfit brings presents down his chimney one night a year without risking a lifetime spent knocking on doors and asking the inhabitants if they've discovered Jesus.
After the parade, we found our way home, fed the over-tired child and put him to bed. Our tree is up in our house, but not yet decorated. My family comes to join us in less than two weeks. It's beginning to look at lot like Chrismukkah...
Ethan is prepared for the coming storm. Winter hat that fit last year and still fits this year? Check. Umbrella I don't know how to open? Check.
Look! A parade! Check out the shiny shoes. And please note the dreaded California Pizza Kitchen in the background. The very one that left me vomiting for days in August. Damn you and your crab and shrimp salad (urm, puke), CPK!
Apparently there's something over there...
Ethan gagging on his candy canes. (note: I did not take this picture intending to capture the moment of chokiness--that would make me a bad, bad mom. He started to gag as the picture snapped, at which time I dropped the camera and helped him--even though he got the piece up on his own. No judging!)