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Are We Done Yet?
by
Gail Fishman Gerwin


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When my daughter was four
we lit the Chanukah candles
on the wedding-present menorah
atop the Lane record cabinet,
our first purchase as a married couple.

In our new home we could peer
out the window at the house below,
where the Todds’ Christmas tree
in their den blazed lights of every
color, reflected by glossy ornaments,
all leading to a star on top that seemed
to descend directly from Heaven.

We chanted our prayers,

Barukh atah Adonai,
Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam,

allowed Karen to hold the
shamash, the service candle,
for her first time, hustled Katey
to the other side of the room
lest she set her pajamas aflame.

Our ritual complete, we gifted
the girls—a doll, a book, a toy
schoolhouse—sang songs
from preschool (only a hundred
sixty-four dollars for an entire year,
reads the bill I unearthed in the
basement as I rummaged through
that crowded cavern where we
store our past).

Dinner, I told everyone, the greasy

latkes already burning at the edges
as they sat in oil on the new gold
General Electric range.

Wait, Mommy, I have a question,
Karen said, what’s that in the window
over there? It’s a Christmas tree, I told her.

Why don’t we have a Christmas tree?
Because we’re Jewish, I said. She wanted

to know then, before eating brisket
cut into small pieces so she wouldn’t
choke, before crunching the latkes,
now on the edge of soggy,

When will we be finished being Jewish?


 

 

© by Gail Fishman Gerwin.
Used with the author’s permission.

Purchase a framed print of this poem.

Gail Fishman Gerwin (1939 - 2016), a “Jersey girl” from birth who claims to have channeled Dorothy Parker and Sylvia Plath on occasion, authored three poetry collections: Crowns (Aldrich Press) was inspired in part by her four grandchildren; Sugar and Sand was a Paterson Poetry Prize finalist, and Dear Kinfolk (ChayaCairn Press) earned a Paterson Award for Literary Excellence. founder of the writing/editing firm Inedit, Gail was also the associate poetry editor for Tiferet and frequently participated in workshops and panels on the creative process. Learn more about her at www.gailfgerwin.com.


Post New Comment:
gigi:
Thank you all for your wonderful comments. My wishes for a beautiful holiday season with light all around. Gail
Posted 12/21/2011 05:14 AM
69Dorcas:
When my sister's friend's little girl was young she wanted an Easter Bunny! They are Jewish,too. The innocence of children. It is delightful. How important are differences in the long run? I wonder. Such a candid child and a lovely poem. Thank you.
Posted 12/21/2011 12:22 AM
LindaCrosfield:
Good one to wake up to during this, the frenzied season.
Posted 12/20/2011 11:50 AM
marenomitchell:
Exquisite! And, Jayne, your commentary, so pointed.
Posted 12/20/2011 11:42 AM
Glen Sorestad:
"Out of the mouths of babes..." A delightful poem, one giving us food for thought at this season.
Posted 12/20/2011 09:32 AM
nancy scott:
I'm familiar with this poem, and it always brings a smile. Children have a wonderful way of getting to the point of things in a way that sticks.
Posted 12/20/2011 08:08 AM
Katrina:
This reminds me of when I worked for a Taiwanese company in London and I took in sandwiches for lunch every day. This perplexed them and eventually they asked me 'Haven't you finished your bread yet?'
Posted 12/20/2011 06:49 AM
dotief@comcast.net:
What a poignant commentary on how exotic and attractive those things are which are NOT part of our culture! Perhaps it is "the grass is always greener.." postulate at work here. In both directions even. The poem is lovely and quite meaningful.
Posted 12/20/2011 06:44 AM
Erika D.:
What a lovely poem. Thank to YDP for sharing it with us. Happy Hanukkah, Ms. Gerwin!
Posted 12/20/2011 06:22 AM


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