Sustainable Giving, A Woman’s Place blog, 12/9/12

Every year, around this time, Grandma Jeanette and Grandpa Izzy would park their Lincoln Continental in our driveway, and climb the steps of our house with a big bag, which they parked in the corner of our living room. My parents, brothers and I would light the first Hanukkah candles and sing the blessings. We’d eat latkes (fried potato pancakes), and after we finished our meal with sufganiot (fried jelly-filled donuts), Grandma and Grandpa would reach into the bag and start handing out small packages wrapped in white tissue paper tied up with blue ribbon. One gift each. Because our grandparents made the hour trip on the first night only, my parents parceled out the presents – one gift each – each night the rest of the week. But as we tore off the sheer wrapping, we were counting the days till that other holiday. Because across the room was our blinking 6 ½-foot-tall fir, dressed in all kinds of ornaments and bordering on ungapatchka – that’s Yiddish for over-decorating.

I am the daughter of a Jewish mother and Catholic father. As is tradition, I was raised Jewish, but just as Dad shared in our observances, we always had a tree, under which, on Christmas morning, were piles of big boxes wearing gloss and glimmer.

While I would be lying to say I don’t enjoy receiving really big presents, I’ve come to realize that the most sustainable gifts of my life have been opened over the course of time: falling more deeply in love, watching children grow up. And we can give simple, small “tissue-paper” gifts, whether it’s donating clothes and food, answering a hotline, giving a much-needed hug. These gifts cost as much as you want to spend in time and energy. The weekend before this writing, my family spent a day in Far Rockaway, cleaning out homes and serving dinner. One day. A few trays of pasta. Not a big deal. Add that to the 20 others with us, and the 20 who’d come in the days before…and in the days after….

If you’re reading this, you’re already committed to AWP and likely familiar with our Equality Value that states in order for us to have a balanced society, we must work together. However, if you’re thinking about expanding your collaborative efforts, check out to find other short- or long-term volunteering opportunities in your community that call to you. Big presents may make us jump for joy, but it’s the small gifts that bring joy to the world.


All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Seats

To many, this is a philosophical question, and while the discussion doesn’t date back to the marble steps of some ancient Greek agora, it is generations old:
“Beatles or Stones?” …Stones.

I was 14 that July when I told my mother I wanted to spend a few days with my summer friend Terry, who was a mother’s helper in the beach town where I grew up. Instead, my “regular group” took a bus to New York City, camped out on the street, and rode that first wave that rolled in when the Madison Square Garden gates opened on the final Rolling Stones performance of their 1972 tour. Some of the gang were able to push their way to the front. But no matter where you were in the Garden, seeing the Stones live that particular night meant you had a ticket to the biggest birthday bash in, dare I say, the entire world? Mick turned 29 that day, and when a humongo cake was rolled out on the stage, the audience sang to him.

Fast forward a week or so when Mom walked into my bedroom, holding the latest issue of Newsweek and its coverage of Mick’s “party.” Pointing to the photo, shot from behind the band on-stage, capturing the first row of the audience as well, she asked: “Isn’t that Frank…and Sarah…and…?” “Yep,” I managed to squeeze out. She paused, narrowing her eyes as she studied the picture and the shadowy faces floating beyond the flash of the camera, knowing one of them was mine. “Did you have a good time with Terry?” she asked. I said nothing; she left my room; we never discussed it again.

Over the years I’ve come to prefer more intimate concert venues, but I’ve always vowed that if the Stones came back to town I’d be there – as a sort of bookend to my mega-concert life. Now, unless you’ve been living in a cave or just don’t care (or both), you would know that the Stones are on their “50 and Counting” tour with, as of this writing, shows in London and Newark. Yes, you read that correctly. But when the tickets went on sale one early Saturday morning for the pre-Christmas shows on this side of the pond, I slept late then watched the Food Channel.


So, if tickets were to magically appear in the stocking I’ll be hanging up early, would I be eastbound on 78 in a Newark minute? Absolutely. But as of now, my husband and I plan on making this a Pay-Per-View night, where this time, I am guaranteed one of the two best seats in the house.