Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yes Dianne, There Is a Chanukah Claus

Chanukah begins tonight and I’m thinking of Nana.

I would visit Nana every day. I can still picture the journey to Nana’s house – several long blocks, across the park through the hole in the fence and then cross the BIG street.

One day, right before Chanukah, I went with Nana to help her and the Rabbi’s wife decorate for the holiday. After many warnings to be careful what I touched and to watch my language Nana finally relaxed and laughed and did what she always did – grab my hand in hers and whisper – “you’re a good girl”.

I wandered around while the ladies polished and fussed and came upon a portrait of a very large man with a fluffy white beard. I believe he was the father of the founding rabbi. I ran back to the main room and arrived to announce – in my usual decibel defying voice …

“Jewish kids do have a Santa! I found his picture”

Out of the dead silence came Nana’s voice. “Yes Dianne, there IS a Chanukah Claus”.

The ladies laughed and vowed to tell the story at lunch. I guess I get my talent for defusing bombs from Nana.

I love ritual and ceremony. I adore theater and tradition.

So the lighting of The Menorah is one of my most favorite memories.When I was older I was allowed to light the Shamash candle – the candle that sits a bit higher than the others and is used to light each of the nightly candles. Nana would sometimes call me Shamash – meaning helper.

Nana had these wooden matches in a box that said kitchen matches. They had tiny spindly stick bodies with huge heads (much like the Olsen twins) and when you struck them across the box they would split and the head would fly off.

Nana: You’re going to burn the house down.

Me: The matches are no good. How old are these matches?

Nana: If you burn the house down I’ll kill you.

I never burned the house down.

Nana: Do you want to say the blessing?

Me: I never say it right.

Nana: laughing – yes - it is not - baruch and adenoids

Me: I wasn’t being a smart ass.

Nana: I know. I can always tell.

She slips her hand in mine. She is wearing the shawl I bought for her at the Christmas bazaar back at grammar school. It is hideous. She always wears it. I wear my mantilla on my head.

Nana: you don’t need to wear that.

Me: it makes me feel holy.

Nana: good enough reason.

She says the blessing without a single falter. In everyday conversation Nana speaks very quietly. Her English is not so good and her accent was often ridiculed by the ladies at the senior center. During the blessing her voice is - Full. Rich. Melodic.

Me: I love the way you sound

Nana: I am sure of the words.

Me: You should talk that way all the time. You talk to me that way.

Nana: I am sure of you.

After reading from her prayer book and watching the lights for an hour Nana worries that I have to walk home in the dark.

Me: No one will bother me.

Nana: You are a tough cookie.

Me: As tough as you.

Nana laughs. Nana loved to laugh …

In the spirit of Nana’s laughter and to welcome the start of Chanukah …

I give you …

May you always have light in your life and may your light burn longer than you ever expected.


bobbie said...

A beautiful post, Dianne. And a fun video. And here I am leaving a comment. I thought you said I couldn't.

"May you always have light in your life and may your light burn longer than you ever expected." I could not possibly find a more lovely wish for you than you sent us.

God bless Nana.

Queen-Size funny bone said...

What a wonderful woman, Nana and there is piece of her in you.

Deborah Godin said...

OMG! Where do I start!?!?! This was WONDERFUL! That lovely dialogue with you and Nana, and then...well, as a big time rock 'n'roll girl not to mention a Knack fan, I have to say I just sat there and grinned like an idiot watching the video - it is beyond clever! Cheers!

Rob (Inukshuk Adventure) said...

"baruch and adenoids" - too funny!
Happy Chanuka!

ramblingwoods said...

This is great...

CG said...

What a brilliant post. I can never hear enough about your Nana!

Travis said...

Thanks for sharing your memories of your Nana. She sounds like a real spitfire, just like my gram.

The video was hilarious!

Hilary said...

Dianne, that was beautiful. Having just come from my family's Hanukkah party, your post just made my day. Our Nanas/Grannys/Bubbes are long gone now, but their memories are very much alive thanks in part to beautiful posts such as yours.

And the Olsen Twins comment cracked me up. ;)

Jackie said...

What a fantastic story - I did laugh!

I was remembering my Nanny today too. It was the Christingle service at church, and I always associate that orange with her, I think one of my earliest church memories is walking home with her and that orange trying so hard to protect the candle flame from going out.

Dianne said...

bobbie - thank you so much for sending back the light - you always do!

queen size funny bone - thank you!! I do hope that the best parts of her are carrying on in me - she was so wonderful.

deborah - I am so glad! when I was searching thru videos most were so serious and then this just jumped at me. I love the - 'Oy!Oy!Oy!' part!!!

rob - I love the way the blessing begins but could never get it right.Oy!

rambling - thanks Lady :)

CG - thanks - now that I'm going to be a Nana myself I find that I think of her ever more. I've been trying to document all the stories as they come to me.

travis - a true spitfire :)

hilary - Oh I'm so pleased!! Happy Chanukah to you and yours.
I love the term Bubbe - and I'm thrilled that my little post added to the day :)

jackie - that's what is so lovely about traditions - in keeping them we keep memories alive!

Farmer*swife said...

Wonderful Post! And, the video was adorably cute and funny! Who thinks to come up with this stuff!!

Happy Holidays! However any of us celebrate!


Dianne said...

farmers wife - I wish I could create videos like that
hilary has a great greeting on her blog
she managed to combine all the holiday names into one word!!

the walking man said...

Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam

shehecheyanu v'kiyimanu v'higi'anu laz'man hazeh.

All blessing flows from God towards man. Thanks for being one of those blessings Dianne.

Dianne said...

mark - thank you, you're so kind and sweet :)
but not to worry, I won't tell anyone

Ivanhoe said...

Have a wonderful Christmas, Dianne :o)
I'll be taking a few days off from blogging...

Dianne said...

ivanhoe - enjoy the days off!! Merry Christmas to you and Mark :)

Pagan Sphinx said...

I'm crying, ok??!!! Good tears for you because you have memories of such a wonderful Nana. From what you've written, it's easy to see where you got your wonderful sense of humor and...your inner light. I think you're beyond wonderful and you are one of the people I am most grateful for in this blogosphere.

P.S. I know lots of Jewish kids wish they celebrated Christmas but I was one of those who wished to have a Menorah because of the ritual of lighting one candle daily and I was drawn to the shape of the Menorah and how it could be very simple in design or very fancy: I wanted a fancy one; the way the middle candle is higher than the others.

It wasn't until later that I learned the meaning of the holiday. And today I'm stick struck by how, like Christmas, each of my Jewish friends celebrate it a little differently in terms of the materialism of the season.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy your Christmas and I can see that Chanukah will always remain in your heart as well.


Bond said...

What a beautiful post...the love you shared with your Nana is so evident...

and then this made me laugh out loud:
They had tiny spindly stick bodies with huge heads (much like the Olsen twins)

Dianne said...

pagan - now that I'm going to be a Nana I am finally embracing how much I am like Nana - I always felt a bit unworthy plus taking over for her made it her physical form seem more gone - if that makes sense - but now - I am wrappin myself in my Nana-ess lol
I love you lady and I know you know that

bond - thanks, Nana made up - 10 fold - for a lot of crap elsewhere - I will be eternally grateful for her
and there is always the laughter ;)

Anndi said...

I love your Nana stories...

"I am sure of you"

It's a wonderful mitzvah that she gave you that confidence.

Raven said...

What a beautifully written memory of a special part of/person in your life. Made me feel all happy and warm. It is chilly here and I have a bit of holiday blues so it was nice to read such a loving piece. I hope you have a wonderful Chanukah.

Dianne said...

anndi - I'm glad you like Nana stories - I've been working on remembering all that I can and getting it down on paper so there will be more :)
thanks sweetie

raven - I did some errands today and the cold and wind is horrid. the wind closed my car door on me and knocked my cane under the car!! I had to move the car, block traffic and then limp back to get the cane lolololol
of course people honked and well - I wished them a merry christmas as I waved good tidings with my middle finger ;)
so now I'm frozen and achy and a bit grumbly - you gotta just ride it out - I watched the Menorah video a few more times - makes me smile

Cherie said...

Thank you so much for sharing the story. So sweet! :)

Dianne said...

thanks cherie! :)

Kay said...

What a beautiful memory… your Nana sounds divine!

I moved last winter and haven’t been able to find my Menorah… but I have a few lit candles anyway.

Blessings on you!

Dianne said...

kay - thanks! :)
it's the lights that count lol
you'll find it next year
Blessings on you too!

magnetbabe said...

I love your posts about Nana and I know that your own grandchild will fee the same way about you. What a lovely blessing and a kickass video.

Reb said...

What a wonderful post Dianne and the video at the ends is just too funny!

Happy Chanukah to you and yours.

maryt/theteach said...

Like Pagan, I'm crying Dianne! What a wonderful story! I think you and I would really be close friends in the real world...just like in the blogosphere! :)

Dianne said...

magnetbabe - thanks! I hope to be a kickass Nana - love the word kickass
Love to you and Deano and all the kitties
hope Nellie is feeling better

reb - thanks again!!

mary - I'm sure we would and we're both New Yawkers too
Here's to hoping the New Year is healthier for me and my ridiculous joints and tendons and I can get back to going into Manhattan all the time
We'll meet up and scare the tourists lol

Spartacus said...

Very touching story, Di.. Your Nana seems like a wonderful lady. I love that you still remember some of the give and take you've had with her. And what's up with the mantilla? My mother used to wear those all the time going to church. Thanks for bringing back that good memory for me.

Daryl said...

So strange, I know, I know I left a comment because your post made me cry .. good tears .. sending you love and hoping you get yourself into the 'city' in '09 .. dont make me come out there to get you!


Dianne said...

spartacus - the mantilla was required at mass when I was a kid and for some odd reason I just loved wearing them
I'm glad I sparked a good memory

daryl - good lord you don't want to schlep out here!! I am hopeful for better tendons and joints in 2009 :)

storyteller said...

Lovely memory of you Nana ... and fun video. Thanks for sharing both.
Hugs and blessings,

The Quiet Rage said...

Mah-mah-MY menorah!!! Thanks for the giggle;) LOVE YA