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A Christmas Pretzel
by Joanie Hieger Fritz Zosike

The holidays turned me into a pretzel.  I wanted to please, please, please. The more I tried the more I offended those I aimed to please, please, please. Sometimes being loved is a curse. I don’t mean that.

Yuletide holidays were spent with best girls, Lee and Billie. Lee got custody on Christmas and Billie, in deference to age, got Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. For New Year’s, joined by brother Bert, we all traipsed to St John the Divine for the Peace Concert, until Bert and I could no longer endure the acoustics and lack of political awareness.

Billie and Lee were gratified by the candlelit beauty of the Cathedral. They weren’t as bitter as Bert and me, who begrudged St John’s for its descent from 60s radicalism. Bert and I declared independence and reserved New Year’s for dinner and a movie, or the occasional Brooklyn Bacchanalia. I felt relieved when the holidays were over. I could settle into inevitable winter gloom.

Things got re-Pretzeled when Bestie #3, Dani, moved from Oakland to New York. She insisted not only on Thanksgiving dinner but a Christmas overnight, too. This pretzel was agony. No one accepted partsies, nor alternating years. It’s fine to be loved but you’ve got to be a contortionist if you have multiple Best Girls.

Until Billie passed away two years ago, I did my best to please, please, please everyone. Meanwhile, Lee and Dani grew to love each other and even survive in the same kitchen. Holidays are now celebrated with Dani and her husband Piet (#4) in Poughkeepsie. Lee comes across the river from New Paltz to help prepare food. #5, Nick, is raconteur. I fold napkins and bus the table. I think of Billie and twist myself into a pretzel in the parlor in her memory.

PHOTO: New York City, Rockefeller Plaza.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is the first prose piece I’ve submitted to Silver Birch Press, ever. Emboldened by a recent MOOC with the Iowa Writer’s Lab, I’ve had a story tugging at my sleeve about an extremely important friend who passed away a couple of years ago but left an indelible mark on my life. A sister traveler in the peace movement, a sister in a love of the arts, a dear soul, a loyal friend, an honorary family member, a sister indeed. I learned so much from her, and she keeps coming back .to remind me of that…and to keep me in line. I miss you so much, dear friend. This story is for you.

Josey and Billie

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joanie Hieger Fritz Zosike’s first job in New York City was as a Santa at Macy’s. She was on the front cover of the New York Post as the first female Santa Claus, although she was actually the second. That same year, she met her first transgender friend, an elf transitioning from male to female. It was a propitious time. Since then, she studied with many well-known writers, directors, and actors, and performed extensively (and till this day) with the legendary Living Theatre. She is perhaps best known for her appearance on Cash Cab, and is thrilled her poetry has been published by Silver Birch Press, most recently in The Great Gatsby Anthology, Ides (chapbook entitled Bliss, Not Weight), and the  Alice in Wonderland Anthology.

PHOTO: Joanie and Billie (aka Sallie), Christmas holidays circa 1990.