TIS THE SEASON TO BE CRANKY   I hope not, but sadly for many the Season of Giving,  once the magic  of early childhood fades,  tis the season for  stress, for not getting what you want, and for failing  to keep others happy.  Moreover the higher you are in the top 1%ers, the harder it is to give meaningful gifts.  I mean think of it, what can Bill Gate’s kids be given that they cannot buy for themselves?

I did cartwheels of joy when I converted –well in my mind, anyway.  I did Christmas behind me.  I was the typical convert to anything– a born again fanatic.  I threw away my Christmas Card list, said we were not to be sent. Seasons Greetings or Hanukkah  Cards and no gifts thank you.  Hinted that none should be expected from us.  Didn’t send any.  A Cranky Old Lady at 34.H

Then I had little ones and in time had to elevate that very minor Jewish holiday of Hanukkah to avoid my kids feeling left out of something that the world around them seemed to feel was  the best day of the year.  Didn’t believe me when I said it was a day to go to church and say Happy Birthday to the good Jew Jesus.  Sigh.

For too many years I covered our front door with expensive blue foil wrapping paper as the background for the menorah and candles I made from the insides of paper towel rolls,  The menorah was wrapped in gold paper.  The menorah was gold, the candles white.  Each night at candle lighting time, we put a new flame  (yellow and red and white crepe paper) in the next candle on the front door’s menorah.  If I had been granted my way, we would have made a giant menorah for the front lawn, to compete with the Santa sleighs, Christmas Trees and Deer festooning all my neighbors’ lawn.  Well not all, one lawn was bare and that house that owned that lawn totally undecorated.  Thank the family was Hindu.  Never saw them, never, ever.   Except for a few lights at night, the house seemed uninhabited.

Anyway, my  Scrooge husband cranked too much about my wish to put up a giant lawn menorah.  He can get crankier than me–even when I had what some of my generation called “the monthlies”.

Then came the day, I was preparing to do my front door thing and asked the boys to help.  Did my little ones rush to my aid spouting forth peals of joy .  Not that day.  The oldest made a decided face before saying,  “Oh Mom.”  His younger brother added with just a hint of a whine, “Do we have to?”  And believe it or not, they were doing the homework.

I knew at that point, the teen years were upon me.  Forget that my sons were twelve and nine.  Being ahead of the age and stage game is not always a blessing  for parents.  Deprives us of the excuse to entertain our inner child.  Later that day when I looked  at the wish lists posted this time of year on the refrigerator, each list contained three words.  “Show me the money.”  Actually I just made that up, don’t think the Jerry Macquire movie had left the studio when my children’s  call for money came instead of Mom purchased stuff.  Still the point was made. And that was more proof I was not dealing with the dreaded teen years.

I capitulated but continued the practice of very small gifts placed in larger boxes sometimes weighted down with stones.  That year began the practice of money being the main ingredient in each box.  First night one dollar, next night two, then four,  eight, sixteen, twenty-four, forty-eight.  No, eight was not a ninety-six.  We were comfortable, but far from rich.  The final gift was thirteen dollars bringing the total to a grand $100 each child–my cash generosity limit.  Cranky Lady enjoyed that fact that it was somewhat less than we usually spent.

Cranky Mommy didn’t like the idea of giving a nine-year old that much money, she had a better idea of exactly what older son wanted and would have bought it for him herself.  Thought youngest son would stock up on candy. Cranky Daddy, a second son, insisted that his second son got the whole hundred and nothing but the hundred.  He didn’t spend it all on candy, even saved a bit and much to my astonishment and joy, even put some in one of the Salvation Army Pots around town.  So Cranky Lady was wrong, but not cranky about that fact.

Discontinued the boxing and wrapping bit the next year’s first night as  youngest son rebelled and said, “Just show us the money. Stop killing trees.” or something like that.  Didn’t cave in on spreading the money out over the eight days.  And  if you  didn’t make it to candle lighting and show me a happy face, no money.  Crank Lady ploy.  Bribery works.  Corrupt leaders know that.

Now that the kids are grown, they do enjoy having Potatoe Ladke and helping their kids light our menorah.  Sometimes we have a gambling night over Hanukkah and play Dreidle.  Love it when I win.

Cranky Old Lady’s Staying Strong Tip:  The best gift anyone can  give a child, theirs or other people’s, is  love and healthy fun.  Second best is living by Golden Rule so kids see good models of what matters. The two go hand in hand, now that Cranky Lady thinks for a minute.

The saw about “quality” time can get stuck in my cranky craw, but the concept is right on.  Stop and think about what matters, give things if you want, but never let them become more important than laughing and playing and spending times with those you love and even occasionally with family you might love, but don’t like so much.

Hhere is a link that Be With Beauty Photographer Suzanne Joblonski posted on her Facebook page.  7 Gifts to Take to a Family with Autism – The Huffington Post. These are gifts any one can give even someone really at the bottom of the 99%ers.  Thank you Suzanne.

Suzanne is a single parent raising a challenging child.  I was her boss when she worked at the Mental Health Association of New York.  She was then a parent advocate.  She is now a Junior, finally taking care of her needs and getting credit for all she knows.  She is one bright lady. She inspires Cranky Old Ladies to remember what matters.

Finally, Cranky Old Lady wants to suggest a gift you can make that would lighten her heart for many days.  She might get so light all her crankiness would float away.    One of my first students at CUSSW was Libby Reichman.  Libby is and remains a most special person. She glows with love, it radiates through her and out to all she touches.  She is one of two people I have met in my life that made me want to bottle their essence.  The other was a waitress in the town of Torry Utah.  Sorry my other friends–most of you are fantastic, but these two totally shine; both are on my pedestal of how to love all.

Not only was Libby one of my students, but she attended the Lincoln Square synagogue.    Shlomo Riskin,  the Rabbi  was the one I studied with and who converted me, was the founder and chief Rabbi of Lincoln Square.  In time, he examined his heart and said that the best way to support Israel was to move there.  He did and so did many of his congregations.   Libby and her husband  were one of the ones following him.  Cranky Old Lady wishes she had had the courage to do the same.

Honor Libby’s retirement as CEO of  the  Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Israel.  Click the link  to make a donation.  The program is very special, well run, and your gift will help change a child’s life.   Less important, it will make a Cranky Old Lady less cranky and her husband safer.

Love you all.


  1. Lots to think about in this post.

    We all spoil each other at Christmas because it’s fun, but the gifts are often cheap and daft things, like Christmas socks, a back brush, and so on. Things we need and haven’t gotten around to buying. Youngest son once bought me nose hair clippers from the pound shop, and was pleased with himself for doing so. I love him for the thought he put into that gift 🙂

  2. Hi Katherine. Yes everybody is a little cranky at this time of the year so you are allowed to be too.
    As time passes things change; children grow and move away and what was once so important to us no longer is. I am deciding whether to put decorations up this year. Usually by this time the tree is dressed, ornaments collected over a lifetime grace every surface, the wreath is on the door etc etc but this year….
    So happy Hanukkah and/or Christmas. May it be a joyful time for you and your family.
    And thank you for the link to Libby. She must be a very special person to have started such a movement.

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