Hide the Pickle
Deborah Skolnik, a mother of two, is the senior editor at Parenting.
When I married my husband, I was introduced to my new favorite game, Hide the Pickle. That sounds wrong. Let me explain: My in-laws hang a pickle ornament on their Christmas tree each year, and whoever finds it gets a lovely coin.
The thinking is that a tiny green pickle in a big green tree is tough to spot. And it is—for amateurs. But I'm Jewish: I've spent my entire life staring at pickles. (I'm pretty sure I had a pickle crib mobile.) For a while, I was killing it. As the others squinted and scrutinized, I'd give the tree a quick once-over and locate the camouflaged Kirby—stat. Year after year, I'd get the coin, while my brothers- and sisters-in-law would politely hide their sour (or half-sour) feelings at my winning streak. Eventually I bowed out, feeling the fight wasn't fair.
Now that we all have kids, we're the spectators. It's my daughters' turn to try to out-pickle their cousins, and they usually don't. Our family today is an even greater mix of beliefs and backgrounds, so in a sweet way, Hide the Pickle is a tribute to our nation's great melting pot. Just fill mine with matzo ball soup.
The Christmas Walkabout
One of my family's most beloved photos features a couple of Christmas trees dangling from a ship's mast at the South Street Seaport in New York City: tiny, festive pines peeking through tangled rigging, their sparkly branches brightening a muted gray sky. It feels akin to Rudolph breaking through the gloom with his small, ruddy nose.
My husband took the picture on Christmas Day 15 years ago, after an impromptu walk with his family over the Brooklyn Bridge. No one remembers who initiated it. As my husband explains, the presents took forever to open, and the inevitable claustrophobia of family in close quarters set in. The serendipitous adventure conjured more Christmas cheer than the usual holiday rigmarole. It's been an annual ritual ever since.
My daughter is only 2, but this year we're establishing our own Christmas walk. Christmas Day can feel a little melancholy, when the only thing left to do is to tear everything apart. Being out when it's quiet, on an open-ended walkabout, seems like the right fix to put the Big Picture into focus again.
Symbolically, it's a bit like the wise men making their pilgrimage to the manger. But instead of looking up and seeing the North Star, it's evergreens suspended in midair. Who knows what we'll see next.