Archive | December, 2011

Not a Merry, but Yet a Very Happy Hanukkah

26 Dec

Holidays are known (notorious) for triggering sad memories of family missing in our lives. So, of course I have been thinking about my mom and, yet, fortunately focus on memories of celebrating Chanukah with her. My thoughts rambled and I came up with one memory or lesson for each night.

1.  Lesson, learned very young: Chanukah is NOT as important a holiday as Christmas. I grew up knowing that Chanukah celebrations mimicked Christmas due to societal pressure. My parents were dedicated to recognizing the holiday and carrying out the standard rituals, without Christmasizing it.  Even as a child, my parents somehow helped me feel that the story of the Maccabees, lighting the Menorah, dreidel games and latkes were more important than gift-giving.

2.  Gifts for Children Only:  My mom was adamantly opposed to children giving Chanukah gifts to adults. They were happy to give us gifts, but believed the gelt-giving tradition was intended to be non-reciprocal. As a child and young adult, I might have felt relief at being spared the expense and shopping agony, but the true test of admiring this “rule” is that I pay it forward—I am very happy to not receive gifts from my children and I am truly happy to give.

3.   Chanukah gifts: Not usually bountiful, but, even in tough years, my mom and dad gave us each one gift we requested. They joked that if we wanted one gift each night we’d have to settle for  Crayola’s box of 8 distributed over the holiday. Rebelling against this and starting with my daughter’s first Chanukah,  I decided to indulge my children the way I wish I was…. Whether it is a relative’s, friend’s or our gift, I make sure my children have at least one gift to open each night after we light the candles.

4. Shopping for Sales: We often waited to buy gifts until the Old Bridge Drug Fair lowered prices hourly before closing on Christmas Eve. Sometimes we even ventured to Toys R Us the day after Christmas for the best sales.  Some years our gifts were delayed until the monumental sales began. It was, of course, more fun to go when we had already been appeased with Chanukah gelt and gifts and the trip filled our rooms with extra toys. One problem with my parents’ plan is that I do recall being really sad in the Barbie aisle when NOTHING was reduced. Those were the days of fewer sales and deals. As an ardent sale shopper, my mom would be overwhelmed with today’s current state of sales. I wish my mom could have seen Target on Dec. 24, 2011!

5.  Better than any gift: My parents’ surprise announcement just before the holiday—we’re driving to Florida. I wonder how crazed the last minute decision made my mom—preparing for the long car ride and stay in Miami or Orlando. I knew the reason for this surprise was due to either a bonus paycheck or some other “found” money. The impetus did not take away even one bit of the euphoria I felt when the trip was announced.

6.  Grandma Ray’s latkes: I can see and smell them now—meaty potato patties coated in heavy oil and fried until all of the oil soaked in. During holidays my mother lifted her usual ban on my Grandma’s food treats. My grandma was even allowed to bring the fruit slices, sweets I still crave (and must admit, buy).

7.  Dreidel games: I often think about the very simple fun my sister and I had while playing dreidel on her floor—before her 1970s green shag carpeting was installed. The tiles were a drab and cold brown during the winter, but spinning for pennies (or even luckier, Hershey’s Kisses) was a tradition I relished. I still have our plastic dreidels, the bigger shallow dreidel that held the tiny ones and the piece of paper reminding us how much gelt we give or get from each letter.

8.  Keeping it simple: In keeping with the effort to celebrate Hanukkah in a non-Christmas way, we had very few decorations.  The most significant symbol of the Macabee miracle was prominently displayed—a brass electric Menorah in the window and an old-fashioned brass Menorah in the family room. I have proudly displayed the same electric Menorah, my Grandma Ray’s candle menorah and one that we received as a gift. I must admit I have decorated with Chanukah ribbon and streamers and use napkins decorated with Hanukkah symbols during the 8 days.

I wish my mom could see that she taught me well and her guidance/lessons live on. Happy Hanukkah!

Special thanks to my sister for helping me with accurate recall!

Now go read a wonderful Hanukkah Hoopla post by The Culture Mom !

I would like to thank Streit’s and Doni Zasloff Thomas a.k.a. Mama Doni, the lead singer/songwriter of The Mama Doni Band for providing each of the 16 bloggers involved in #HanukkahHoopla with a little cyberswag.

How can you win? Leave me an awesome comment. On January 5, 2012, I will select one winner at random. Be sure to subscribe to my blog or subscribe to comments on this page so you can find out if you are the winner! If I don’t hear from you within 48 hours, I will select another winner.

Prefer to be contacted via Twitter? Leave your Twitter handle in your comment and I will tweet you if you win.

Not interested in winning? You can still leave a comment! I love to read your words. Just write: “No prize necessary” in your comment.

Don’t make me work too hard to find you. That will make me kvetchy. Oy.


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On Your Mark, Get Set, Go….

4 Dec

Please forgive me for gloating in this post. I am teeming with glee as I celebrate the very first time that my children and I participated in the same 5K! We did not run side by side, but we crossed the same starting and finish lines as we added support to our town’s American Red Cross Walk/Run for Life. For more than 25 years, I have been an avid runner. Some people prefer to run on their own, but I have always loved having a running partner (s). I often run with my husband and friends. And, over the last 5 years, my daughter has been an occasional, but favorite running partner. We run together for fun and have done many charity races. Five years ago she struggled to finish a 4 mile run for lung cancer and today she came in 2nd in her age group.  On our runs, I often think, “It doesn’t get better than this….” And, today, it just got better.

While I have tried, unsuccessfully, to motivate my son to run in the past, he has just recently become self-motivated. His impetus for running is to be more fit for soccer. That is admirable, but I would have even been happy if his impetus was tv time after a long run. He joined the high school winter track team and is now having a great time running with friends and challenging himself. He used to dodge any attempt I made to get him to run—with me, on his own or in an organized race. So, when we asked him about doing this American Red Cross run and he quickly said, “YES,” I privately jumped with joy! I was so nervous about him backing out that I put off signing him up until 30 minutes before the race was set to begin.

I wish I could tell my mom about our day. I’d love to tell her how this reminds me of some of her favorite activities that she wanted my family to enjoy with her.  As an antiques dealer and aficionado, she wanted us to stop at just about every antiques store we encountered. During family road trips we sometimes gave great effort to diverting her attention from any antiques store we spotted.  It was almost comical—“Mom, can you help me with this crossword puzzle….would you check the map…do you like my hair this way….” I have often thought of how thrilled she must have been the first time I said yes to her invitation to join her at an antiques auction. My attendance was only partly to appease her and mostly to try it out. I was starting to plan for my own apartment and thought I might need some antiques. And, after buying a pretty set of dishes (her treat and favorites that I still use), I converted. I started to enjoy browsing in antiques stores –with her and even on my own.

 It was not easy to “wait” for both of my children to enjoy one of my favorite activities. And, I knew it might not happen, there was no guarantee that they would ever share my passion. Just like my mom, I nagged a bit and then held back. I pleaded a few times and then forced myself to ignore the topic completely. Just as my mom was, I’m sure, excited for our 2nd antiques auction outing, I am excited for the next opportunity to pursue this newly formed family tradition!