After we rested from hauling the tree up over the balcony, Grandpa Nelson and I bundled up for the very cold evening and walked down to Auntie Katie’s house.
Since some streets are very dark, I wore my coat with lights in it. It makes me feel safe, and just a little bit like a neon billboard.
We enjoyed seeing the houses’ lights in the neighborhood. Some folks really go all out!
Once we got to Katie’s place, I chatted with her while she fried up a great bunch of latkes (and donuts!) and Grandpa Nelson played mini-cornhole with Jasper on the table.
We ate and talked and horsed around, and then Cousin Kestrel and Auntie Katie used her new mortar and pestle to pound dried lavender for sachets.
As we hugged everyone goodbye and headed for home, we noticed the wonderful new awnings on Books with Pictures. They will protect the books from too much sun, and keep the rain from battering the hundred year old windows.
We got home, after a very Christmas-y, Hanukah-ish day. We were pooped!
Last week, Governor Kate Brown invoked the Conflagration Act because of all the forest fires burning in Oregon. This impressively named law means that state resources can be used to fight local fires, and it makes sense. A fire that starts in one county burns straight through to the next, and there is no time to gather local forces.
Portland isn’t in any danger, though we suffered a bit from the drifting smoke, as well as the heat and dry air that has helped the fires grow. Our sunshine was an apocalyptic orange and folks with lung problems stayed inside.
I have grown up with a complicated relationship with fire.
Going camping as a child, I learned to lay a fire in a stove or fire ring and nurture it until it caught. I learned to make sure it was out by pouring on water and stirring the ashes. I have loved being able to create heat and light. It is a very primal skill.
I enjoyed it when, one winter in Salinas, our electricity went out and we had to depend on our fireplace for heat, even using it to make tea.
On a more creative note, Hale Pele, our favorite Tiki Bar in Portland, uses fire and cinnamon to delightful effects in making cocktails. And, of course, Hanukah candles warm our hearts in the dead of winter.
But fire has also given me some nasty burns when an old gas oven flared up, or when I fell over backwards into a bonfire.
Let’s say I love fire enough to run towards it, but am cautious enough to stop before I get too close. Not a bad lesson for most kinds of relationships. Closeness, but boundaries. Appreciation, but care.
Our household celebrates both Christian and Jewish holidays, so this time of year is extra festive. We have our Christmas tree up and the menorah on the table. We have delivered small gifts across town to Auntie Katie and the cousins and wrapped presents for each other in red and green paper.
Our brass menorah, bought from the now-closed Do Re Me Music in Carmel about 38 years ago, was the first piece of Judaica we owned. We love it because it is an abstraction of the word “Hanukkah”, which means dedication, and is different from any menorah we have ever seen. We keep it on the piano all year ‘round, as a piece of art.
The only problem with it is that when the lower candles are all lit, the upper one tends to ….. well….. melt. A slight design flaw. But a small price to pay.
This year we are not making latkes. They are traditional and I love eating them, but for just Auntie Bridgett and me (Grandpa Nelson doesn’t like them) it is a lot of grating and frying mess. Also, we have an extremely nervous smoke detector. So we will pass for now and hope for better things next year.
Because it usually happens so close to Christmas, people sometimes try to make Hanukah an equivalent holiday, but it just isn’t. It is not nearly as important to Judaism as Passover, Rose Hosannah, or Yom Kippur.
But in the middle of a cold dark season, candles are always good.
Dear Liza, Yesterday we celebrated Hannukah with Auntie Katie, Cousin Jasper and Cousin Kestrel. I started early, making the dough for sufganiot, or hannukah doughnuts. It is a sweet, soft yeast dough and needed to rise for a while. I packed it up for the trip.
I walked to Auntie Katie’s house as it was getting dark, and I wore my regular heavy coat with an addition: Remember the tiny lights Auntie Katie sewed onto her cape? I sewed a multi-colored version onto my coat, so I could walk after dark and BE SEEN by the drivers. I felt so bright and cheerful, like a Christmas tree out for a stroll. I got thumbs up and smiles from folks, and a lady actually rolled down her car window to ask “Where’d you get those lights?”
Once I was at Aunt Katie’s, we grated the potatoes for latkes, made applesauce, and went to fetch the cousins from school. They have such a nice after- school program at Hosford-Abernethy, they never want to leave! But we managed to bring them and Cousin Kestrels’ graham cracker gingerbread house home.
The cousins helped shape the sufganiot into donought shapes, balls and sticks, and we let them rise while Auntie Katie fried the latkes. Then, while the latkes stayed hot in the oven, we fried the sufganiot! They got so brown and pretty, and when they were done I sprinkled them with cinnamon and sugar and let them cool down.
We ate latkes with sour cream and applesauce, then ate the sufganiot….so tasty! Even Grandpa Nelson had one, and you know how fussy he is.
Then, of course, we opened presents. Jasper liked his Zelda hat so much we wore it while he played video games on the couch. Kestrel, Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and Auntie Katie all had fun working on a picture using Kestrel’s new art supplies…fairy stamps, markers, and googly eyes.
When we were stuffed and the cousins were sleepy, we headed home. What a lovely evening!