Hanukkah and Hash Browns

When I was growing up, my parents did a really nice job reinforcing the Jewish holidays and creating family dinners and rituals that I will always fondly remember.  As I look back,  I now realize how much effort and planning it took to make these times special for us and I am very appreciative because they are the best memories of my childhood.

Robin and I really never took the time to develop the same impactful experiences for Isabelle when it came to the holidays.  Yes, Robin would decorate the house on Halloween or we would string lights up on Hanukkah, but generally it was last-minute and extremely casual.  So as Isabelle and I enter into the holiday season without Robin, I thought it would be nice if I could start new rituals together to make these times special for her.  With this in mind, I officially set the goal and I was going to deliver a nice celebration for her and me!

This new mission sounded great, however my execution once again became a last-minute endeavor.  I wanted us to light and sing the blessing over the candles, exchange small gifts and enjoy a traditional meal.  Sounds sweet huh?  Well the real story for the perfect  evening was a little different from the dream.  My day started out with a million errands and I kind of ran out of time.  After working out at Orange Theory (90 minutes 45 Splat Points!), going to the car wash, hanging some pictures, finishing laundry and of course.. hugging my pugs,  it was already late in the afternoon.  Vowing to make a nice holiday dinner, I did what every other Jew in West Bloomfield would do at 4:00 p.m. on a Sunday … shop at Trader Joes.  My sister-in-law, Marilyn, told me about their delicious potato pancakes and I was determined to simplify my life instead of making them from scratch (who am I kidding that was never even considered).  Trader Joes was buzzing as everyone was looking for these pancakes and the store was already sold out of them.  This of course left all my people scrambling for an Option B.   I settled for cauliflower pancakes that didn’t sound great and were completely passed over by all the shoppers.  These boxes sat sadly next to the vacant freezer section where their potato pals once resided. I quickly jumped into problem solving mode and turned to the imposter,  hash browns hoping Isabelle would not notice. (I never actually knew what the difference was anyways, but didn’t have time to ponder – I had a timeline to meet)

When I arrived home,  I was excited to get our traditional holiday dinner prepared which secretly meant firing up the oven, throwing the frozen food on a baking sheet and waiting 10 minutes.  While this was going on, Isabelle announced that she went into the front closet, which was where I hid her gift.  I had thought it was the perfect spot since she has never ever opened that closet since we lived in the house. She promised that she saw nothing, which I of course did not believe for a minute.  Trying to move beyond that snafu,  I asked Isabelle to set up the menorah for us.  Apparently she misunderstood me and lit the candles on her own without me.   I was determined that we were going to do this right so I insisted we sing the blessings together and recreate the candle ceremony.  We fumbled through the prayers as we both forgot the words and the tune. This was not exactly how imagined our evening unfolding but oh well…

We ate dinner together while watching the Notre Dame Basketball game and it was actually a really good time. The cauliflower latkas were tasty, the hash browns worked for us (the pugs enjoyed them too) and the blintzes added that extra dose of carbs needed to send us into a food coma.  I gave Isabelle her gift and she acted pleasantly surprised and satisfied with her new purse.  We ate chocolate gelt (coins) and flipped through old family pictures which Isabelle found amusing as she commented on our retro garb and hairstyles.  Once we were done with our loving banter, drowsiness set in from all the sugar and we called it the official end to Day One of Hanukkah.

All and all,  I thought the night was a success because we had a lot of fun even though some things did not go as planned.  We enjoyed each others company, talking, laughing and thus creating a nice new moment.  Don’t get me wrong, we missed Robin and would much rather have him with us then having to recreate this holiday.  However, this Hanukkah felt different, comfortable, special which ultimately was fulfilling for us.  So I guess we could say – Mission Accomplished (at least for night one).  Now I will go throw up from the greasy and rich food that never agrees with me and that is not a fond memory or ritual.  Peace Out My Friends…









3 thoughts on “Hanukkah and Hash Browns

  1. Happy Hanukkah, Risa to you both!!:) It was again so well written!!!
    We don’t have any traditions either, everything is last minute, often I work on Christmas Eve. Totally different from growing up in Europe with family around. I actually feel bad for my kids during this time, and mad at me for not being able to make it special for them.
    Oh well!!:(


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