{ the tree }

{ It was the Christmas}  of 1992. A typical not-at-all-cold Southern California Christmas. The trees had sprung up out of vacant lots all around the tiny town of Claremont way back in October. By now, a week before Christmas, they were fading into the background of everyday life.

Personally, I couldn't wait to see them brown and dry on the sidewalks, waiting for collection as garbage. I was just that way about Christmas.

Growing up as one of a few Jews in our little town made December a month of hell for me. Oh sure, I got my presents, too. For Chanukah. But I also got back in touch with my outsider status. Every store downtown, every song on the radio, everywhere I looked I had yet another reminder that I was not a part of the majority. And every year in school I got to give a little presentation to the class about Chanukah.

"Class, this is Derek. He's not like you and me. He celebrates Chan ... Chan.... How do you say it again, Derek?"