when I was nine and by 1992 my dad was happily remarried to a woman named Barbara. As step-moms go she was okay. She didn't mother me too much, she liked the grateful dead, and she drove a cool car. She was actually pretty hip.
But Barbara didn't celebrate Chanukah. She celebrated Christmas. In fact, to this day I'm convinced that she's the last person on the planet who still treats Christmas as a religious holiday. She actually hates all the hoopla more that I do.
So for Christmas 1992, I had a bright idea of what to get her.
It was a week before the big day and my dad and I were talking about how overworked we all were. "Barbara's too busy to even get a tree this year," he said.
Each year prior we'd struck a delicate balance in the house: a Christmas tree in one corner, a Menorah in the other. Both sides were represented. Everyone was happy.
"Hey dad," I ventured, the idea already in full bloom. "Let's go get her one! It'll be a surprise!"
My dad smiled.