August: Dog Days of Summer

Monday, November 12, 2012


The HOLIDAYS are approaching. fast. I can hear them like an on-coming ambulance, careening down the highway full-bore. And I'm standing dead still in the middle of the road like a deer in the headlights. I am SO not ready. We celebrate it all around here: I am Jewish, though have been non-practicing for, well, all my life pretty much. I go to Temple about twice a year. I was raised in a very religiously confused house, by parents who were both brought up in the time when most middle-class American Jewish families did their best to "assimilate": that is, hide their Judaism or deny it completely. We celebrated Christmas, ate ham on Easter after decadent egg hunts, and did our best not to ever let on. When I grew up, I realized this was sort of messed up. Pete grew up very strict Catholic (he was an alter boy), but does not go to church. When we got married, we had a friend officiate- he is an ordained Unitarian minister- but really, we mixed some of both worlds in the ceremony. I would very much like the kids to have SOMEthing, religion-wise. They ask about G-D, and we talk about talking to G-D. Pete and I agreed that they should have some religious  schooling- and knowing that it would be much more difficult for me to veer toward Catholicism, we decided we would take the kids to Temple and have them Bar and Bat Mitvah'd. In reality, there are so many things that I believe in- a smattering from many different belief systems. I guess, like most things for me, I'm a religious mutt. But very "spiritual." If that makes any sense. Going through so many years of infertility certainly tested our faith. During most of that time, we were attending Temple very regularly, praying hard, bathing in the mikvah, being blessed, and having a community of wonderful people adding their prayers to ours in a common goal. It was pretty amazing. Just before we made the decision to make THE phone call, (the one in which we asked our Niece and her husband if their offer to be Gestational Surrogate for us was still on the table), my Dad went to Israel. Pete and I wrote out a prayer and gave it to him, to roll up and put into a chink in the Western Wall. Here's what we wrote:
Dear G-D,
Please help us to be as strong in body, mind and spirit as possible- 
Please help us to be loving and understanding and patient
with each other, so that we are able to sustain a happy, healthy
marriage, and that we may be the best parents possible.
We are ready to start our family, and sincerely ask that if
it be your will, we be granted and blessed with our own
natural children. If this should not be your will, please let us
be parents in whatever way you see fit- We want nothing more
than to share our love, and to be patient, supportive, fun and
very loving parents- Please grant us children in the best way
possible for us- Please help us to have a loving, supportive, 
nurturing marriage and household. We pray for happy,
healthy children! We are ready to be parents!
Thank you for all your gifts-
(and we signed our names), Maggie Lukes
and Peter Lukes.

And here's a picture of my Dad putting that small rolled note into the wall...

About two weeks (maybe less) after Dad came home, Tiff and Tom made what, for them must have been their "THE" phone (the one where they told us that yes, their offer was very much not only on the table, but waiting and ready to be wrapped up and delivered.) Miracles do happen.

And so- as I said, we celebrate it all around here- Chanukah, and Christmas. And the kid's birthday, two days after Christmas. It is, indeed, a cray-cray time of year. Usually by this time, I have our Holiday card all ready and printed up, address list and postage set up to go, and most of my shopping done. I like to be DONE before Thanksgiving.  So far this year, I'm not even close. We do 7 very small (we're talking dollar store small) gifts each night of Chanukah, then one slightly "larger" one on the last night. Then I must pace for Christmas- a few fun and cool things, a few educational things, a few creative things, one really special thing, and stocking stuffers. Then comes the birthday. I have always only done one gift for each of them on their birthday. Coming on the heels of "Mass Greed" as my Dad calls it, this seems to work just fine. We also have a tradition around this time of year: we go through their playroom and fill a number of boxes with toys, books, games, clothing and shoes to give to a local charity. Before Mass Greed, and equaling more than is to be acquired. This year, things are going to go down a bit differently: there won't be nearly the amount of newly acquired things as in years previous, and the kids will come with me to a shelter to do the "give-away." I cannot abide the thought of raising entitled kids- but it's really hard not to with all that technology has to offer all around them, every day- which I have NO control over. They are exposed to so much more than we ever were at the same age as kids-it scares the shit out of me. And they're really smart. I know, and pray, that they will grow up to know how fortunate they are, and certainly to know how fortunate we all are as a family that we were able to do what we did to have them in the first place. But it's really hard not to just shower them with all the things I know they would love- to see their faces light up and hear their shrieks of excitement at each new thing as it gets unwrapped. But I will stick to my plan, and I will spoil them in other, less immediately tangible ways.
Their one special gift this year, will be an heirloom. Sophie will get my Mom's shamrock charm on a chain. Alex will get - well, I don't know yet. But it will be comperable. He wants a real train set. My brother has kept all of his model trains from when we were kids- perhaps I'll approach him about this....
In any case, I am going to start a new family tradition this year. I'm going to sit down with the kids and watch their birth video. Because that is the one thing we should be most thankful for- the miracle that brought them to us.


  1. My kids also went through the yearly ritual of cleaning out their toy box to give to the less fortunate. One year, our second-to-the-youngest very proudly announced the chore was done: the toy box was thinned of all unwanted toys. Our proud-parent bubble was burst when my husband and I looked into the donation bag to find not her toys, but her younger sister's! To this (her now adulthood) day, we don't let her forget it.

  2. Wow - that note you sent with your Dad just brought me to tears. What a blessing to have your children and your family during this holiday season. I love your smorgasbord of traditions!

    1. Thank you, Josey- I do feel very blessed!

  3. First of all, I am glad to have found your blog through this theme post. This *one* post has completely sucked me! Reading the broad strokes of your story, the note you sent with your Dad (um... wow. I *may* have choked up), all of it... wonderful.

    I love the idea of gathering up things to give away. As in, I'm stealing that. I also LOVE the idea of heirloom gifts. My grandmother started giving "with a warm hand" a few years ago, and it means so much me to unwrap something that she hand-picked from her home - something she thinks I will really love. She writes a little hand-written note to go with it about where it came from and how she got, and why she is giving it away. Thanks for reminding me that she does this. (Choked up again).

    It IS hard not to spoil them - I agree. But I love what you say about doing it in less tangible ways. :)

  4. Wow, your letter above which your Dad took to Israel, along with your following paragraph, had be teary-eyed. Beautiful. It sounds as if you have a busy time in December but a wonderful time indeed. I love the idea of giving them heirloom gifts, as those will mean so much more and they will cherish them for many many years to come, not just a few months, as is the case with so many toys. I feel very fortunate to live in a country where children have little or no toys. Sometimes it breaks my heart, but to be truthfully, they are happy, so happy. Sometimes for three kinds day on Jan. 6th they will be giving one small gift from the 'three kings' but that is it, and that is enough. We hope to do similar with our daughter. This year we have bought her 3 gifts opposed to the 1 I hope to do in future but I couldn't resist for her 1st Christmas!! :/ Maybe I'll try to save at least one of those for her birthday in Jan.

    I like the idea of less tangible gifts. My husband and I do this for our birthdays every year. We go somewhere special or do something special instead of giving eachother gifts. It will be fun to do this with Alidia as she grows up too.

    Loved your post and hearing about traditions in your family!! :)