Happy holidays, everyone! I’ve been consumed again by domesticity over the written word the past few weeks. (Is this a bi-annual event?) But amidst the Thanksgiving feast and Hanukkah festivities and upcoming Christmas celebrations, I’ve been thinking a lot about memory and identity. Some of this thinking seems to be arriving in the form of baking. Not my father’s Hützelbrot or Stollen, not my mother’s cookies (I can still enjoy those with her!), and not Chanukah cookies per se. Though I have the cookie cutters (dreidel, 6-pointed star, menorah), I have shied away from the tedium of rolling out dough. Instead, I’ve had my boys sorting M&M’s by color, segregating the red from the green. Blues are in scarce supply (most common, I can now tell you, in the dark chocolate variety), and ridiculously expensive if purchased separately. Christmas is everywhere, even in the form of M&M’s! And Christmas is the holiday of my childhood, some memories pleasant, others more subdued or complicated. Now, we light the candles for the eight nights of Chanukah…and we celebrate Christmas with my family too. Identity in transition (the whys too complicated and tangled to unravel in the short space here).
In the midst of baking and planning and gathering friends and family together, I’ve had both Chanukah songs and Christmas songs (the background music of most shops and Starbucks—remember that cappuccino addiction?) jumping through my head. The other day latkes (in the catchy tune “Lots of Latkes”) suddenly mutated into housewife. It helps if you know the tune, but the lyrics go something like this…
“Lots of latkes, lots of latkes! Let’s all eat ’em up!”
Just a housewife, just a housewife… Let’s go clean it up!
As you can see, I am missing my desk, the manuscript keening for its final ministrations. And yet I have taken pleasure in this holiday flurry. It is satisfying to draw upon and remember how we are connected to people, whether through our children’s schools, important organizations in our lives (Temple, church, groups of many kinds), longstanding friendships, and of course family, far and near. By virtue of the sometimes harried busyness, I am reminded of how valuable and important those connections are. So, while my holiday cards still loom (dangling over my head—where I should be reaching for them now, instead of typing), the cards feel like a welcome task. Even a too-brief hello and photo sent to those we may talk to or see too little serves to keep us in touch. The phrase, Better late than never comes to mind. This has been a “just-in-time” kind of week. Or year.
I don’t believe in resolutions—they are too easily promises broken—but I do like the idea of thinking back, remembering, in all its complications, and looking forward, thinking about what might be different, what will stay the same (the good and less so), and what pleasures lie ahead. I love January, for the calm it offers after the hectic yet satisfying end-of-year bustle, and for the return to my writing desk (in this case metaphorical, since the actual desk is too cluttered to participate in any hopeful image of the near-future). I think we need this balance (festivities-work; social-solitary). Though it so often feels precarious, tipping too far this way, too far that, it gives life the fullness it deserves. No one said happiness wouldn’t be messy, even unclear. Sometimes we need to throw ourselves in, not knowing quite where or why (those M&M cookies, for example), and sometimes we need to step back (a cup of coffee, a blog post, a quiet moment with ourselves or a good book) to recognize it.
Happy holidays! Happy New Year!
~ On the lighter side… Never thought Lady Gaga could be spoofed for Hanukkah? Funny YouTube video here [René Marcellus and Christina Hondromihalis celebrate Hanukkah with Adam Sandler, Lady Gaga style!]. ~