Christmas comes a little early to Chow Bella this year -- in the form of some darn good holiday storytelling. Today, Karen Bayless Feldman shares the story of her first Jewish Christmas, spent (where else?) in a Chinese restaurant.
When the police officer apologized for my Christmas being ruined I told him, "Are you kidding? This is my first Jewish Christmas, and it was great!"
It's been a few years since I converted. And in true married couple fashion, when I asked my husband recently about the day of my first Jewish Christmas he said we had Chinese food first and I say we went to a movie first. While others were busy putting bikes together or fishing out last pieces of candy from the toes of red stockings, my family and I were starting to follow the long standing Jewish tradition of Chinese food and a movie (or a movie and Chinese food).
And if it matters, I didn't convert because of my husband. I think converting after 14 years of marriage will take care of any speculation that I was becoming Jewish just for my spouse or just for the Chinese food and movie tradition. Well, maybe that.
For my first Jewish Christmas we picked a movie we thought would be family friendly. Something about a puppy who was truly obnoxious. It was like watching a spoiled brat for nearly two hours. Oh, wait, that's just like a lot of other people that day!
After the so-so movie we drove a bit to the first open Chinese restaurant we could find: a little place on Camelback Road a few miles and many income levels away from the Biltmore area. At first, we weren't sure if the restaurant was open for business. Most of the tables had dishes with leftover food on them and half-full glasses (I'm an optimist). Then we noticed a group of four women at one table looking like a cheaper version of Sex & The City and a table in the back with a lone woman at it.
Before we gave up, a tiny Asian woman (the co-owner, "Mrs. Wong" it turned out) showed us to one of the few cleared off tables. We sat, got ready to order, and noticed that Mrs. Wong kept going over to the table with the woman sitting alone. They would have words, then Mrs. Wong would walk off mumbling with a cuss word thrown in here and there. Soon the woman got up and walked toward the door.
Mrs. Wong started screaming at the woman that she wasn't allowed to leave until she paid her bill. Mrs. Wong was maybe 5 ft. tall and the other woman towered over her, but Mrs. Wong was pissed and she locked the door. It was about that time that we finally saw "Mr. Wong" who grabbed a phone and called 911.
My husband, being the Good Samaritan that he is, got up to try to help. Being the lawyer that he is, he first told Mrs. Wong that she couldn't lock us all in the place, but Mrs. Wong would not open the door. He also tried to calm down the woman taking occasional swings at Mrs. Wong when she thought she had a shot at escaping through the door. Things would seem calm for a moment and then there'd be punches again.
I also called 911 from my cell phone about the same time my two younger kids crawled under the table. I stayed on the phone with the dispatcher and would give her blow by blow details of everyone's actions. "Everyone is talking...Oh, she's swinging again....my husband is trying to hold her arms back...she's calm again...how far are the police?"
The police showed up after a few minutes, the kids came out from under the table, the Asian version of a nana came out of the kitchen with our food, and the woman was cited and released. She left without paying.
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The Wongs told us how the woman had been there for hours and had tried getting out the back door earlier, and they felt bad for us and didn't make us pay. The table with four women never even noticed anything had been going on. Then we went home or to the movies--depending on whose story you believe.
And I had the coolest first Jewish Christmas ever.
Until I talked to a woman who converted to being Jewish at the same ceremony as me. She was arrested that week and got to spend a night in jail.