Thursday, December 2, 2010


You know how it is sometimes, when you start to say something, and you've got so many competing thoughts and feelings, all jockeying for position in the funnel that leads down from your brain and the funnel that leads up from your heart, all simultaneously toward the tip of your tongue and/or the roof of your mouth or wherever speech comes from? And it's so much at once that whatever it was you thought you might say comes out kind of like ba, ba, ba, a motor boat that can't quite get started, a babble of confusion, a twirling tongue? Well, that's me and Chanukah. At least this year. I mean, I don't even know where to begin.
     With the annoying opinion piece in yesterday's NY Times by Howard Jacobson, recent Man Booker prize winner trying to be funny? They say his award-winning novel is funny, and I had been anxious to read it until I read his NY Times piece yesterday, which I did not find at all funny or even clever.
     With the story of the time (years ago) when my mother called me to say Happy Chanukah? And it was a time when I didn't care (or didn't think I cared) about Chanukah, and she started singing Chanukah songs over the phone, and I felt annoyed, but then something clicked in, and I started singing with her, and soon I was crying.
     With the Chanukah song sheets, which I have in a folder in my file cabinet downstairs? These are song sheets that my mother mimeographed (yes, this was pre-Xerox), so the print is that purple color, and the letters are slightly swollen. She always brought them out on Chanukah, and we (the rest of the family) always acted annoyed. But I saved them. Okay, I know it's hard to see, but you get the idea. That's her staple in the upper left hand corner, and that's her hand writing, and that's probably her wine stain near the bottom right. A family heirloom?
     Okay, call me sentimental. Fine.

6 comments: said...

Because we are a minority, we are especially bothered when one of our own embarrasses us. I;m more annoyed that the NY Times found Mr. Jacobson's message viable print, given that a huge number of its readers are Jewish. Are they that hard up for Op-ed material?

Heirlooms are defined by the love and memories they remind us about. "Her staple". "Her handwriting." Those words define your feelings of love and loss. The world would be a better place if more people were sentimental.

Happy Chanukah!

Susan Messer said...

Thanks, dear, same to you. Jacobson's piece got hundreds of comments (which is what one of the goals is). Last time I looked, more seemed to be finding fault with it than finding it funny. Which in this world, where what one needs is readership and response and "click-throughs," is okay.

There is something about Chanukah--probably the memories--that does open my heart. And unlike Jacobson and others I've heard from this year, I think the songs are great. How about you?

Jim Poznak said...

I enjoy most parts of Chanukah. Making and eating latkes (with apple sauce and cream), lighting the candles in the menorah, saying the blessings, and singing the songs. I also like that Chanukah arrives at different times each year, like a fresh surprise. said...

I am not religious, but I care a great deal about our religion culturally - the music and the writings, fictional and historical. Remembering family gatherings is especially important to me since so many of my relatives are dead.

Like you, using my mother's dishes means a lot because she touched them.

I saw the responses you saw about Mr. Jacobson. Feh!

Susan Messer said...

It's true about Chanukah moving around the calendar like that. Makes it slightly unpredictable. keep you on your toes.

And, rasirds, there are so many aspects to any holiday--the religious aspect, the communual, the food, the memories, the historical. Any of which we can embrace, ignore, mix and match. I was thinking last night (when I was feeling irritable), "I don't give a damn about the Maccabees." said...

Read that Wayne State U (Detroit) rescinded an award to Helen Thomas because of her ongoing negative comments about Israel.

One has a personal right to any feelings, but when one is also a professional (I assume Mr. Jacobson considers himself professional) additional responsibility is a reasonable expectation. If we don't protect our own, who will.

For what it's worth, and it is worth something, the Palestinians are helping to fight the forest fire in Israel. Maybe there's some hope.