Tuesday was the first night of Chanukah and I saw this as a great opportunity to finally introduce my three-year-old granddaughter, Meghan, to Judaism. Up to this point religion hasn’t played a huge factor in her life. Yes, the “other grandmother” does take her to a Unitarian church every so often on Sundays. Yes, somehow, someone managed to slip into my little associate’s library a book about God—who happens to be a tomato. (Don’t ask!) And yes … not being such a big proponent of doing the synagogue routine myself coupled by the fact that again she’s only three, I didn’t see this as much of an issue.
I come from stock where we’re all one thing. One religion. No muted lines crossing my DNA other than the Judaic ones. Therefore, I got indoctrinated early and all my memories are wonderful memories. Memories so full of tradition, of family, the lighting of candles, the singing songs, the greasy, but heavenly latkes, and the inevitable stories passed from generation to generation. The Maccabees. The battle between the Syrians. The oil enough for only one night. The impossible turned into a miracle of light.
These are the things I treasure the most about my religion. The tradition of it. The connective thread of who we are as a people, how we came to be and despite all the tremendous struggles, we have not only endured, but thrived.
I suppose this is what I want Meghan to know. That she is a part of all that.
So after getting her all jazzed up that she was in for a big treat and naturally lots of goodies, I sat her on my knee and read to her the most age-appropriate book I could find at Barnes and Noble (mind you the selection was bupkus in comparison to all the Christmas books in full display, and stuck in a remote corner of the store that not even the salesman could find).
At first she seemed spellbound by the story as I flipped each colorful page. Her mouth slightly open, her eyes glistening with anticipation. But as I got to the end, I knew I had lost her somewhere between one of the Maccabee brothers racing off for more oil and Judah not sure he could keep the Syrians at bay. The final blow came when I finished and she looked up at me with this what the fuck? Is that it? expression and said, “I no like that book.”
She did though love the jelly donuts that followed, the cache of gold-foiled chocolate gelt, and of course the new Barbie. So all in all, I suppose the night wasn’t a complete failure. I’ll try and imagine that some small seed was planted in Meghan’s head. And while it might pale in comparison, size-wise, to the taste of tradition I experienced growing up, ultimately it doesn’t matter. Because in the end, from every experience, every life lesson, we each take what we need. We each walk away with our own memories thinking they were the absolute best. And so will Meghan.
If not … next year I’ll simply resort to more gelt and perhaps a bigger Barbie.-