We’re Jewish, and I’m an atheist at that, but it’s Christmas eve and my family’s bar is closed for the night and my mother will be damned if we don’t have a nice family dinner together.
So I train up from Grand Central with old friends, my older brother picks me up from the Metro North Station, and when he pulls his old Cavalier into the driveway, my mother is standing in the window, waiting and watching for us all to arrive.
My dad comes home next, wearing a santa hat. My brother puts one on, too. My mom has roast beef tenderloin, potatoes, haricot verts cooking, and stands over the oven, gesturing at a spread of cheese and booze. My father pours us all shots. My brother makes some stacked Christmas shot, my dad goes for rum, I choose single barrel bourbon and my mother, who is not in the mood for hard liquor, sips a shot of red white.
The radio plays Christmas carols. Bruce Springsteen, but still. We sit over dinner in santa hats, tipsy and hungry, laughing and happy, missing the now-deceased family dog, missing my father’s now-deceased parents, dipping forkfuls of roast beef in the jus and happily, quietly, content to be Jewish.