My parents have been doing some spring cleaning lately. And by spring cleaning, I mean my mom called me and said, “We have five boxes of your crap in the attic. Can we throw it out?” My crap being everything I’ve ever generated artistically or scholastically since first grade.
Last weekend, I was in Ikea, as I have been every weekend for the past year of my life since we bought this house to practice good old American consumerism (except for when I’m out on the streets). I was browsing their art section because we still have almost no art in the living room and bedrooms. We have some good stuff in the kitchen, though. This one’s my favorite:
Anyway, so I was at Ikea and I saw this poster:
I mean, I’m sure you all have seen this poster, somewhere, in a million iterations. In fact, if you go Etsy and type in Audrey Hepburn, the Etsy search engine will just say, “I give up. I can’t do this, man. Everything on this site is Audrey.” Because there are Audrey posters and Audrey onsies and, yes an Audrey Hepburn flask.
Even Mr. B, Audrey’s biggest fan, hates these prints and will not buy them out of the principle that they’re super-tacky.
And it got me to thinking, what if Audrey Hepburn really hated having her picture taken? I mean, we don’t really know her true personality beyond a couple of quotes, right? What if she was massively anti-social? And also hated black and white? And was more interested in her humanitarian work than the fact that she “believed in pink,” which almost of these prints talk about?
What if she’s in heaven or Tiffany’s right now, all like, “Goddamn those consumerist assholes that think that a print of me will add glamour to their cookie-cutter suburban houses? They wouldn’t know glamour if it hit them over the head with a Blahnik.”
I can just picture her, sitting on a cloud, smoking a cigarette and talking to God. “You know, I did so much for the orphans in Somalistan, but no one cares since they can just slap a quote that I said offhandedly once about believing in fairy tales on their wall.” She passes the cigarette to God.
“Sorry, I really didn’t mean to design you that way,” God says, taking a drag. “It’s just that people are morons and they need to have the not so pretty stuff packaged up in a pretty way and I thought if I made you pretty but also involved in UNICEF and shit, that they would get the message.”
“Well, that’s not how it worked out, did it,” Audrey says, frowning, picking out a piece of cloud out of her LBD.
“Oh well,” God says, with a shrug. “I tried.”
“Might as well make that your epitaph,” Audrey says, rolling her big, darling eyes.
Then she takes a swig out of her Audrey flask.
I actually wrote this post two years ago but haven’t been brave enough to publish it until now.
It’s about a secret love of mine: Christmas carols. Technically, as a (nonobservant) Jew, I know I shouldn’t enjoy them or sing them, a knowledge that was imparted on me by my mom who, when I was learning Silent Night in third grade, acted as if she was personally experiencing the Inquisition when it gets to the part about yon Virgin and Child. I was also afraid to say the word ‘Jesus’ until I was in high school. I was always embarrassed to sing them at home and when I did, it was always in the shower.
From youth onward, singing Christmas carols became a stigma for me and an involuntary jolt of shame and fear came upon me every time we had to sing a song in class that had anything to do with Jesus or Holy Nights or Yon Virgins. I would panic and try to swallow the words as much as I could while burning in shame that I couldn’t just sing them like my classmates could.
Theoretically, this is good. Jewish (or Muslim or Bahai or areligious) kids shouldn’t be singing Christmas carols about a God they’re not supposed to believe in. And, schools need to recognize this and not have any religious content in their holiday programs (many of which I’ve had to suffer through both as a clarinet player all through high school and middle school and a member of our school chorus.) Not balanced content (i.e. one Hanukkah song, one Christmas song, etc.) Just no religious content at all. And don’t label it as the War on Christmas. Just label it as a separation of church and state.
At the same time, Jewish parents shouldn’t overreact and stigmatize kids against everything related to Christmas, which is more and more becoming a secular holiday in the United States. Particularly when one of the kid’s other parents might be Christian. Granted, my dad is a pretty stoic Christian. He never took me to Russian Orthodox Christmas services (probably out of concern for my sanity, seeing as to how the whole service is held standing up). He never explained Easter, or much any Russian religious to me in the same way that my mom explained Judaism. But he did take me to a monastery when we were in Russia, which was awesome and one of the experiences I remember most about that trip. There, my aunt asked me to drink some water that had been blessed by the priests of the monastery, which I shied away from very uncomfortably. But why? Why couldn’t I have been raised in dichotomy? I’m not saying we should have celebrated Chrismukkah, because that’s just lame.
But, I’m sad about the fact that I don’t know of any Orthodox Christian tradtitions to pass on (not even egg dyeing. I got nothin’). Because it is still part of my identity. And while I don’t identify with the sense of joy and celebration that are tied into Christmas carols because I’m not Christian, I am still going to be rocking out to the following song, which has three of my favorites (Europeans, tuxedos, and cathedrals). Just in secret, still. Because the fear never leaves you.
It’s raining right now, but not a tropical rain.
It’s the kind of fall rain that reminds me of, for some reason, mostly of literature. Of the Hound of the Baskervilles, of the Neverending Story, of Bilbo setting out for his journey even though his hobbit hole is really very comfortable, reminds me of one of my favorite books, A Farewell to Arms. I can’t find the exact quote, but I remember that we covered that book in the fall of 11th grade, when it rained, and that I kept imagining Frederick Henry in the rain in the miserable mud trenches in Italy and I wanted to be him (and not the nurse) so bad, even though, let’s be honest, he was kind of a dick.
These kinds of rains make me want, more than anything, an awesome reading nook. Here are some I like a lot, just in case you’re looking to pick up that perfect holiday gift:
Unfortunately, I don’t have a nook yet. But, look! Pictures in the living room! That’s almost nook-like, right?
Living room before:
And now: (with 150% more Corn Pops)
Mr. B and I are moving to Pentagon City . I’m pretty sad, because I love our apartment and the fact that we were 20 minutes away from DC but could eat breakfast on our balcony facing the woods.We’re moving because it doesn’t serve the right purpose for us anymore.
What I love most about it is that we lived the first two years of married life here, instead of communal-Soviet-style with our parents in the same one-bedroom apartment that was built during the Khruschev administration, like my parents and Mr. B’s parents did. We lived sans parental interference and, in doing so, established a pretty solid foundation for decision-making in our marriage which will last us for years to come.
What is hard right now, though, is the clutter. Oh, the clutter.
I knew that we’d be moving eventually, so I tried to keep the apartment as sparse as possible, free of crap. Unfortunately, I’ve somehow failed, because we’ve been packing for two days now, mercilessly throwing stuff away left and right, with no end in sight.
“We’re hoarders,” Mr. B said.
Hoarders who still own unusually large bears named Luke that they’ve had since they were 11. Also paintings that they bought at flea markets for $5 and can’t get rid of.
The hardest thing for me is to let go of are things I’m emotionally attached to, or things that people have given me as presents that I HATE, but that I can’t throw away because, what if they ask about them?
On the one hand, I’m extremely flexible (because if I wasn’t, I would probably be going insane over the fact that we have spent maybe a total of 10-15 weekends in DC over the past two years in our traverse between my parents and Mr. B’s. ) This is probably because I have Mongol blood. But, on the other, how can I ever, ever, ever give up any of my books?
Tips? Thoughts? Sanity?