Deer-fat candles, Dan’s latest experiment. Friends and relatives: coming to a gift box near you!
Rose is balanced on a chair, placing candles in our family’s menorah, while I am hitting the household “hot spots” (couch clutter, table crumbs from breakfast, bathroom sink) before our Hanukkah guests arrive. Rose is wondering about “tardition,” as in, “is it tardition to place the candles from right to left?”
Rose takes a break to twist wire onto a small zoo of clay teddy bear ornaments, which she hangs merrily (merrily, being code for so earnestly enthusiastic we need to remind her to breathe) on our Christmas tree. She twists wire, hangs bears, and sings, “Hang your ornaments on your tree, but it doesn’t have to be a treeeee!”
Indeed. Last Sunday, the kids cut a few pine, spruce and fir boughs, which are now bundled together, strung with lights, stuck in water and sitting festively on our living room floor like many others that have come before.
Why yes, that is our treeish.
I’ve realized that all the Christmasy things we opt out of no longer put me in a neurotic tailspin of over-analyzation. The kids are getting more comfortable with being different, which is something I hope they can draw from as teenagers, that we never did anything just because everyone else was doing it.
Every night, after kissing the kids and crossing my fingers that I won’t see them again before 6:00am, I step back into our darkened living room, glowing with strung lights; our little tree trinket-ed and cheery; and I feel a pang of gratitude for the sweet traditions that invigorate this cold, dark time. And really, tradition is just that pot that’s been bubbling on the stove long before we were around, brightened and carried forward by what we add to it now.
Rose is back to the menorah, changing out the candle colors to better reflect her mood. “Light one thousand lights!” She sings. Col squints from the couch.”Do you know how many one thousand actually is?” he counters, being the head buzz-killer of the pragmatists society.
Rose, singing and candle-arranging, and chocolate coin-dreaming.
Although our freezer is brimming with meat, Dan has been Robin Hooding around, picking up roadkill deer and bringing, er, deer legs to the people! He keeps the hide, brains, backstraps and that little red gumdrop of a heart (one currently winking at me suggestively from a bowl every time I open the fridge, saying perhaps, “Yes, you are the kind of person who frequently eats roadkill deer heart.”) Our friend, Sam, who teaches lego robotics classes, was so jazzed to get a set of deer legs to butcher, he gave the kids some prized legos from his collection. He said, “You’ve got a lot of one thing. I’ve got a lot of another thing – this is great! No money needs to change hands.”
Grilled deer heart, about which Dan aptly says, “It’s the sausage that the deer made itself.”
Every morning, Rose asks, “Can we open a Hanukkah present now?” And I explain about the tradition of lighting the candles at sunset, bringing light and warmth to the house, and how only after that do we open a present. If this falls short, I invoke my grandfather, Jack Turiel, who was an orthodox Jew and knew something about tradition.
Rose nods, goes back to Legos, and tries again the next morning.
Holy Hanukkah bonanza: Let there be light! And Legos! (Thanks, Sam!) And eggnog!
The morning’s coffee has included eggnog from the first blink of December, upon which Dan announced, “I feel an eggnog binge coming on.” This is our go-to eggnog recipe.
Col’s friend, Seneca, (who often wanders through our kitchen peering into bubbling pots on the stove) helped me on a recent sleepover to make this gifty spice mix: (don’t you love that paprika color at the bottom?)
paprika, rosemary, garlic powder, thyme, cumin, fennel, chili powder
We are now accepting applications from dogs who need home care. They must, like Chica, who came to stay with us over Thanksgiving, be “good” dogs, as Rose says, which means: they lick your face, don’t mind being carried around, come with outfits, respond to various nicknames, get along with rats, and accept small table scraps, which they shouldn’t take, but which the people under ten can’t resist offering.
For Hanukkah, we gave the kids the opportunity to help plan a short, winter trip to Northern New Mexico. They can use maps, internet, and experts in the field to make their decision. Is this a thinly veiled plan to insert some homeschooling into the holidays…well, maybe. Col has chosen Los Alamos, to go to the science museum and Bandelier National Monument, and Rose has chosen, no joke, to be completely in charge of our meals for one full day.
The whole jiggy: lighting the menorah, singing the prayer, Dan’s sinew strands lurking, and deer fat candles burning,
Last night, after a menorah/hair-burning incident followed by wrapping paper accidentally flung into the lit menorah, Dan sang, “Hanukkah, it’s a phenomena, lets not burn our house down.”