"Do you have dreidels?" I asked the cashier of my local candy shop as I handed her gelt to ring up.
"Not yet," she responded. We were already four days into Hanukkah.
"Uh-oh. You're gonna miss it," I said.
"No, we won't. We'll have dreidels in time for Christmas."
It was a forehead slap moment. Instead, I thanked her and left with my chocolate coins covered in golden foil. It wasn't the cashier's fault that she didn't know the dreidel is traditionally a Jewish toy. It was the fault of the entire universe conspiring against me to cause the great Hanukkah Fail of 2013.
I grew up celebrating both Christian and Jewish holidays. Since having my son, it has been my intention to raise him the same way. So far, not so good.
This year, for the first time since Jewish dinosaurs roamed the earth, Hanukkah began the day before Thanksgiving. Determined to unleash my inner Sharon Homemaker, I brought out the Hanukkah potholders and dusted off the menorah, placing in two candles. Once the matzo ball soup was boiling, I left to set the table. That was the beginning of the end.
I swear, at one point in my life, I had a multitude of tablecloths for different occasions. I did. I know it. Yet on this first day of Hanukkah, the only tablecloth to be found was my Easter one. Oh well, I had wasted far too long assaulting every kitchen cabinet looking to worry about color coordination. I placed the menorah on top of the pink and purple pastel table covering. Now all I needed was a light.
If I were living a movie, this would have been the moment the thunder crashed.
Every day of my life, I pass by a pack of matches somewhere in my home. On this first day of Hanukkah, none was to be found. I trashed my kitchen even more, emptying out every drawer and cabinet, looking for a pack of matches. A lighter. A blowtorch. Flame batons. A fire-breathing dragon! Anything!
I gave up; I broke the bottoms off the candles and stuck them back in the menorah. There! Now it looks like the candles burned down. Huzzah. At least the house smelled like Hanukkah.
Oh, no! My revelation quickly turned to terror. I'd spent so much time looking for tablecloths and matches, I'd forgotten about dinner on the stove. I ran to the pot of matzo ball soup, which could no longer really be referred to as balls. Matzo mush soup, perhaps. Unleavened porridge.
My baby liked it. But what does he know? "Meat sticks" are one of his favorite foods. What type of meat? It doesn't say. It's disgusting what he finds edible.
The second day of Hanukkah was dedicated to Thanksgiving. It wasn't until Black Friday that I could attempt to rectify my Hanukkah hack job. My baby and I ran through pouring rain to a local convenience store.
"Do you have any lighters?" I asked the cashier.
"Marijuana or Ecstasy?" the cashier answered.
"Marijuana," the cashier repeated as he pointed to a lighter with a marijuana leaf on it, "or Ecstasy?" He then pointed to a glow-in-the-dark lighter.
"I'll take the glow one," I said, handing over $2.
"It ain't got lighter fluid."
"Can I buy the lighter fluid here?" I asked.
"Nope. You shoulda bought the marijuana one."
"Fine. I'll take that, too."
"OK," he said, ringing me up. "But it ain't got lighter fluid, either."
The next day, I stopped by the candy shop on my way to Hanukkah dinner at the apartment of friends of ours. I had promised to bring the gelt and dreidels. I showed up with gelt only. Luckily, our friends had dreidels. Unluckily, their 3-year-old took me for all the chocolate I brought.
My son had no interest in the dinner latkes, but I did catch him eating a handful of gelt. Golden foil and all. I guess it's nice I could impart some of my culture unto him and his digestive tract.
It wasn't until the last day of Hanukkah that I remembered something important: I have a gas stove. I could have lit my candles the whole time. It was another forehead slap moment. This one was earned by me.
My son in my arms, I lit menorah. And then I took pictures; at least in the photo albums, history can be rewritten.
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