We’ve been celebrating Hanukkah, which is joyous because no matter what is happening at sundown—which is usually that it has become simultaneously cold and dark, no one’s thought about dinner, and the kids are either happily or bereftly loud—we stop to light the Hanukkah candles.
We’ve explained to the children that Hanukkah is about bringing light to the darkness, and about miracles, large and small. This has been cheering me up immensely. I’m like an old retired horse given new purpose: sniffing out miracles. This is also called mind expansion practice, which is like taking my old worn out neural pathways to the gym.
It’s possible that I’m scraping the bottom of the miracle barrel, content with assorted crumbs rather than the sea-parting, oil-lasting stuff of legends. Which is to say that when Dan and the kids all relieved themselves behind a bush this weekend and Rose asked if anyone had any toilet paper, and Dan found, inexplicably, a tiny square of it in his pocket, we proclaimed it a Hanukkah miracle.
More Hanukkah miracles:
1) The miracle of siblings not fighting. When we play a family board game, siblings are too busy and occupied to remember to fight! (Which may or may not be the reason we bought Dan (count ‘em) three new board games for Hanukkah).
Catan Junior, where you win by acquiring resources like goats, bundles of wood and barrels of molasses, which feels pleasingly wholesome. Also, equal parts luck and strategy = fun for all the ages of our household. Also, we haven’t had actual dinner at our actual table in three nights due to our obsessive Catan playing soon as the sun goes down.
2) The miracle of seeds. In the beginning of November, I scattered a few hundred lettuce seeds in a couple garden beds and covered them with PVC hoops and plastic. I was entirely prepared for the seeds to do what most seeds do in November, which is nothing. But look!
There are three of these coldframes. My guess is the greens will hold on all winter and start really putting out next spring. We cover them with blankets at night.
3) The miracle of optimism. Having not grown up celebrating Christmas, I can just barely cobble together a safe-for-kids facsimile of this holiday. We do our best and it’s all good. But I just can’t uphold Santa as anyone other than a man who’s been paid to dress up in a portly red suit. My kids have been briefed and know not to spill the beans for other kids. This year we stumbled on a Christmas tree lighting ceremony downtown in which Santa and Mrs. Claus came riding up on a horse-drawn carriage. Rose gasped, and announced, “I DO BELIEVE IN SANTA!….He just hasn’t ever brought me presents.” We call this extreme optimism.
4) The miracle of digging deep. I have been alcohol-free for three months now. And though I would rarely consume even 2 beers in one 24-hour period, there was a certain ritual in toasting my glass to the setting sun after a day steeped in children and work. There was some entitlement: I’ve earned this beer. Also, some taking the edge off: It won’t matter as much that Col is howling because Rose pinched him because he walloped her with a pillow, now that I’ve cracked this beer. But without that crutch, I’m digging a little deeper. And, it’s just like digging in the garden, your hands scrabbling past the sharp-edged rocks of your fears and judgments, watching all your expectations sift through your fingers like sand. And amazingly, underneath it all, I’ve been finding more patience and tolerance than I thought existed. I don’t know why. Maybe because there’s nothing else to lean on. And turns out patience and tolerance work similarly to beer.
Every night, after lighting the Hanukkah candles and saying the blessing, I declare, ”Let there be light in the darkness. And let there be miracles in our lives.” And then Dan says, “and let there be candle wax on our table.”
And the Lord said, It was good (enough).
* Tell me your Hanukkah miracles.