Here in the States it’s the “Holiday Season.” This is a time when many religious and ethnic holidays beautifully collide in lights, candles, family traditions, ceremony, songs and festive decorations. A time when everyone believes in Peace, and loving their fellow man — unless they’re arguing on whether to wish each other a “Merry Christmas” or a “Happy Holiday Season” or “Hey, what about Chanukah,” “Chana-who-cares! What about Kwanzaa!” or “Hellllloooooo, over here — Ramadan…!” You get the drift.
Lenny Bruce once did a Riff on Lawrence Welk called The Sound. This was a bit on an erstwhile, night-tripping trumpet player who swings his axe and seeks to discover his sound. The sound I think of this time of year is two simple consonants crushed together into tiny atoms until they explode like their own Jewsih Big Bang. The the beloved throat clearing rattle that has so many of my friends of so many ethnicities come up to me imitating an old Billy Crystal character.
Even if you’re not Jewish, who doesn’t love that “ch” sound? That phlegm-inducing sound that is both smooth as cream and gravely as an Eastern European road? That one sound that can make one word engender three distinct utterances; “ch- e- va.” As in, “Da’link, ch-ev-a leetle moaw coogle. Hmnn, done yu’ vant szome?”
Simple question-statements such as dis resonate deeply in my brain this time of year. Ones that conjure up sense memories of second and third story walk-ups in the Bronx or Brooklyn. Wafting remembrances of Polish-Hungarian delights; and the sounds of a spoon rattling in a tall, thick, soda fountain glass of malted-milk.
This simple “ch” reaches deep into my DNA, drawing upon a thousand sorrows of grand and great grandparents fleeing their European Shtettles; the overwhelming joys of seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time from the New York harbour; and the stark reality of indoctrination at Ellis Island. I hear and feel all that in one leetle throat clearing rattle of “ch!” The sound that keeps the faces of our shrunken, Yiddesha Grandfolk alive in our hearts.
However, when I hear these sounds at a party in Chesapeake, Virginia, and it’s coming from one of my favorite non-Jewish friends at the Christmas (or “CH”rissss-missss) or Kwanzaa party…it probably means someone has had just a wee bit too much egg nog…emphasis on the nog.
So, if you think your friend, associate or even a perfect stranger at one of the many holiday parties you are attending is going to remotely be a danger to him or herself or to anyone else on the road who may have kinder at home — hold on to those keys. Find them a room or a cab. Enjoy the frivolity this joyous season without the tragedy of another “seemple” question; “Why didn’t I just…?” If you’re going to err — go ahead and err on the side of humanity and safety. You may just save the life of someone dear to you — in the office or on the road.