The folky melody of “Oh Chanukah, Oh Chanukah” plays lazily from the next room. Hot latkes cool on an oily paper towel, begging to be eaten with a dollop of homemade applesauce. These aren’t just any latkes. Shredded potato is blended with its South American cousin, yuca, for extra crunch. I wonder faintly if my cousins in Colombia will also be eating yuca frita tonight.
When you have a twin sister and a brother who is only 16 months older than you, three separate chanukiyot are required to keep the family peace. Each one is as different in design as we are from each other. Our fists close tightly around individual shammashim and we recite the prayers in unison. My mom breaks out in song and 10 hands clap in time to “Maoz Tzur.”
One candle is lit after the next until all three chanukiyot are ablaze, wax dripping onto the foil below. Three mostly-flat chests sink in one collective exhalation. Our quiet breaths carry one emotion after another: joy, wonder and love. Another year passes with the sinking of the candles. We didn’t know it then, but in two years, there will be one less family member crowding around the kitchen island. For now, five full hearts beat in time with the flickering of the light.
Deborah Herr Richter is creative and media director of the Atlanta Jewish Times.