Latkes and gelt. Dreidels and candles. Laughter and gifts. I cherish so many sweet images and joyful sounds from past Hanukkah celebrations with my husband and two boys. Debbie Friedman’s “The Latke Song,” and “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins” at bedtime. Special pre-school presents and menorah art projects. Such is Hanukkah when you are raising Jewish children.
But these days our house is much quieter and the presents far fewer; the gelt and latkes are in moderation due to increasing waistlines and slowing metabolisms; our books and songs are far less interactive and colorful. Such is Hanukkah as an empty nester.
This year I held out hope that at least one of my boys – or rather, young men – would make it back to the nest to share in menorah lighting. But our oldest son often travels abroad for work, with a busy social life of his own; and the holiday starts so early this season that our youngest son won’t be home from college until well after the Festival of Lights has ended.
So, what’s an empty nester to do for the holiday? Although I had been dreading this new chapter of life, my husband and I have adjusted (and enjoyed!) being “just the two of us again” and all the freedom that entails. Change is never easy, but change can be good too. Although I still miss the days of “Sammy Spider” and my boys squealing in delight, it has been refreshing to connect with other adults who share this same stage of life with us. So this Hanukkah, we will be lighting candles on the first night with our special, new havurah friends, and celebrating the last night by eating latkes with our dearest, old friends.
Next week when I light the menorah, it will be in awe of the miracles and brightness in my own life, and joyful for the exciting new chapters awaiting all of us. Chag Urim Sameach!
Jodi Danis is an administrative assistant at the AJT.