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Chanukah Grace Notes

Chanukah this year did not get off to a great start. In fact, it started with a tray of home-made dreidel treats falling off the roof of our car and splattering all over Taylorsville Rd. I had put the tray there when loading the car, and then promptly forgot about it. Surprisingly, it survived a two-mile jaunt through the neighborhood. Not surprisingly, it did not survive a turn onto a busy street. The accident left Simon in tears as we drove to the family Chanukah party.

I think it was an omen, and I don’t even believe in omens, because the party totally did my head in. I know how that sounds (i.e. bad and/or ungrateful), so let me explain. Every year, my mom works to arthritic exhaustion getting ready for the family party. Sandwich stuff is laid out, side dishes are prepared, presents are selected and wrapped, and mandel bread—the stiffest dough imaginable—is lovingly stirred, shaped, baked, cut, and toasted to make the day special.

The problem is that the Goldstein kids don’t see each other often enough these days. Therefore, when we do finally get together, the siblings dive into rushed conversations and jokes while the kids, many of whom are at or approaching teenagedom, run wild. In other words: I love my family, and I love holidays, but I do not always love family holiday parties.

This year, per the usual, I arrived early to help set the table and to peel, grate, and squeeze dry seven pounds of potatoes. About the time mom really needed help getting the food all set out, the siblings and cousins were arriving and diving into full mayhem mode. So Mom had to yell to be heard over the din. As did Matt whenever he needed to tell or ask me something about Simon. As did I when I attempted to tell people to grab something, set something somewhere, or even just grab a plate and start eating. Not that anyone was listening to me…

I was noise-stressed before we ever got to present opening, an activity that devolved from loosely organized and loud to full-blown chaos within ten minutes or so. By the time the party ended, I was completely shell-shocked. I don’t know who got what from whom. We never played dreidel. We lit only one menorah, and the teens were texting during that part. I only took about four pictures before giving up. There’s got to be a better way.

When I got home, I wanted nothing more than an hour or so of lovely, lovely quiet, and the highlight of my day was slipping into bed. So, yeah, that’s where Chanukah stood as of this morning. Then today I took Simon to his swim lesson, his last of the year, and Ms. Julie had a treat and card for him. These lines especially caught my attention:

“Thank you for coming each week with a smile and a willingness to learn. You are often the highlight of my day, and always my favorite lesson.”

What more could any parent want to hear from one of his or her child’s teachers? I can’t think of anything. It was the best present I could have asked for, until…

…Until we went to bed tonight. As I snuggled next to Simon on his new Spiderman sheets (a gift from my mom), Matt brought in the little LED menorah he made just yesterday and set it for the second night. Since I hadn’t lit our real menorah yet, I decided to sing the tunes right there. When I finished, Simon chimed in:

“No Mommy, that’s not the right tune. Here’s the way I like to sing it.”

And damn if he didn’t sing the entire first blessing, in Hebrew, complete with a few repetitions and embellishments I vaguely remember my friend Sharon (a cantor) using. He’s been hearing this tune at preschool Shabbat for years now—I think—but never once let on before tonight that he remembered or could repeat any of it.

A great swim lesson, a sweet note from Simon’s teacher, and being serenaded by Simon in Spiderman sheets by the glow of an LED Menorah. Yeah, my Chanukah is looking up.

2 Responses to “Chanukah Grace Notes”

  1. Amanda says:

    Happy Hanukkah to you all!

  2. blg says:

    I know what you mean about the relentless noise and confusion. Keep having to remind myself that it is all driven by love. But, oy, my aching head!

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