In going through an old file, I came across an article I wrote that won first place for the Christmas edition of the Orange County Register 34 years ago! How well I remember going out in the driveway and seeing my article as the wrap for the paper. Although years have passed, the essence of that story seems more pertinent than ever. May you enjoy.
It is said that God gave us memories so we might have roses in winter. As this year comes to a close, the world seems more frozen, frigid, and filled with hatred. To stand strong, resilient, and resolute in creating a world that works for all – I believe we start with one person at a time.
I was reminded of this belief when I recently found an article I wrote over 30 years ago for a competition in The Orange County Register. On that Christmas morning, the newspaper in the driveway beamed back at me—and I wept to see a precious memory on the front page.
Here it is…
“Is it all right if one of the guys from my dorm comes home for Christmas?” twin brother John casually asked Mama during a traditional Sunday call from Emory University in Atlanta.
One simple yes and Bob Covin was in our lives. Christmas for the next four years would never be the same. And thankfully so.
With a rousing “Ho, ho, ho,” this plump young Jewish man with a crooked grin burst through the front door each season. His left shoulder would tilt from the pillowcase stuffed with goodies slung over his back.
“Ah, the Hanukkah bush,” he’d exclaim and rush over to the poor imitation of a northwoods pine. With the air of the restaurateur he was destined to be, Bob – by now we affectionately called him “Izzie” – would sniff the kitchen, pronounce a blessing over the turkey, and put Dad to shame with his flourish of a carving knife.
But with Izzie, the best was yet to come. We’d dress as carolers and meander through the side streets of the Fort Lauderdale neighborhoods where elderly, transplanted Northerners cried as we sang “Silent Night” and “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.” Bob’s strong bass voice led the group, weaving a cantor’s magic into melodies molded by the mystery of a child’s birth.
Like the Pied Piper, he led us under palm trees and around hibiscus, back to our living room and rollicking hours of Jewish song and dance. Under the spell of his voice accompanied by music from a folk record album, we joined hands and circled, kicked and hopped, stepped in and out, faster and faster, slower and slower.
In fact, it was probably the adrenaline created in that after dinner frenzy that kept us awake for Midnight Mass.
We would reciprocate with attendance at Seder Eve and he’d return the next Christmas with more songs and more dances. And in our senior year, he appeared with his lovely bride, Shelly.
“Ah, the matchmaker did it,” he chuckled and patted her slightly protruding belly. “And we’ve got one in the oven.” They both beamed.
As with too many growing-up seasons, college came and went and our Christmas celebration moved throughout the United States – wherever enough of us could gather in one place at one time. Izzie’s life moved him in other directions. His work led to his own restaurant. His faith led him to serve as cantor in a small community until such time a rabbi could be found. His love of life added a daughter, Stacey, to oven-baked Josh.
I always think of Izzie at Christmas. In a world divided by ancient hatreds and modern cynicism, what a difference it would make if one hand reached out to grasp another. Even if it is to dance the Horah to Hava Naglia.
A simple yes and Izzie taught us a lesson. Would that he could teach it still. At age 34 my dear friend died of a cerebral hemorrhage.
Ah Izzie. My Kaddish for you is Silent Night