This year’s once-in-a-76,000 year convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukah is impressive. Normally I am a huge fan of rare calendar mash-ups, so I don’t know why I find the neologism “Thanksgivukkah” so annoying.
Sometimes I suspect those who are enthused about the holiday combo are actually unenthused about family visits and thus welcome the two-for-oneness of the holiday. Who doesn’t love to kill two turkeys with one stone. See? I’m as cranky-crank as Bull O’Really at Christmas. Did I already miss his “The Pilgrims were so NOT Jewish” rant?
For weeks, Thanksgivukkah food bloggers have been kvelling about their ingenious sweet potato noodle kugel, horseradish-chive mashed potatoes, pecan pie rugelach and Manischewitz-brined turbrisket with challah stuffing. They caution that the turkey skin might have a purple hue. A bi gezunt. Don’t worry, as long as you have your health.
Truth be told — and it so rarely is — I’m just mad I didn’t think of Thanksgivukkah. That and the fact that Fairway is going to be double tsuris. On Manhattan’s Upper West Side where I live (and yes, I’m terribly embarrassed not to live in the uber-coolness that is today’s Brooklyn, mea artisanal culpa) Fairway Market is still an impressive geo-locator.
It is generally packed, a grocery gauntlet. So when food shopping is my spin on the chore chart, I hop out of bed, slug back a half cup of coffee, pop on a hat, a coat over PJ’s, maybe brush my teeth, and I’m in the produce aisle at 7 a.m. It’s just me and the all-night, shelf-stocking crew finishing up their shift. Before the cash registers run out of paper or the bar code readers fail, I am checking out.
I’ve checked out with these women for 17 years. I’m businesslike, amiable, ready with the special store discount card I still use despite NSA surveillance. I compliment new hairdos, ask about their weekends, freak about the cost of things, thank them and wish them a good day. My charm offensive has been effective except for one cashier. I’ve thought she must be having a bad 17-year patch, or she has a child with a rare blood disease, or she’s homophobic. My gal told me to give it up, yet I kept trying.
But last year when I was the designated shopper because my gal was going through breast cancer treatments, I let it go. I didn’t have the energy for it. Even if there were no one in her line, I’d wait for another cashier. When my gal felt better between treatments and went shopping in full-on Yul Brynner bald, everything changed. The next time I went, the cashier beckoned me to her line and asked, “How is your friend?” I was so destabilized I could only muster, “Stronger every day.” When my gal felt better after another chemo, they got talking and she told her that we had just gotten married on our 25th anniversary.
When it was my spin on the chore chart again, I shopped early, and was groggily heading to checkout. I saw our new friend, waving me over like she was part of a ground crew guiding a jet into its gate. She was beaming, congratulated me on our wedding and asked after my wife. I didn’t explain that I prefer ‘Wi-Fi-hotspot’ to ‘wife.’ There’s being charming and being a jerk.
As I walked home I marveled at how the legibility of marriage has made us so much more readable for all kinds of scanners. Despite my continued reservations about marriage, My Wi-Fi-hotspot and I acknowledge a different level of understanding from straight people, more light than heat. On this Festival of Lights, I give thanks for my dear’s good health. OK, it really is easier to just call it Thanksgivukkah.