Monday, December 14, 2009

Hanukah continues

Today is the third day of Hanukah, and last night we lit the third candle on our Menorah. We told the third part of the story of the Macabees and the Hanukah miracle. We ate our foil wrapped "Hanukah gelt" and cuddled together as a family to watch Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. After we tucked the children into their beds, I spent some time on my own contemplating the meditations from Rabbi Orenstein's essay.

She writes, "What are the miracles of joy, surprise, and delight in your life? Was there a time when you were you recovering from loss, and preparing to face the future, when you got a gift – a sudden surge of hope, of Light, a promise for the future?"

I spent yesterday thinking about this. The picture that immediately came to mind was Eric, my dear friend who died just four years ago. When I was a year separated from my "wusband" I met Eric online. I knew him then as Fenrir, and later as ErictheMad from LiveJournal and other online names. At first he was a confidant, then a friend, then a close friend, and eventually a virtual lover. He brought life back to my gray existance, and helped me see that my separation and immanent divorce were unimportant. I was free, pretty, and full of joy, and that's all that mattered.

Then he came to visit me. It changed the course of my life. He came, not knowing if we'd continue our "lover" arrangement in the flesh, and not caring one whit. He came to visit, and that's all he came expecting to do. The first night, he slept downstairs on the air mattress, because my daughter was there and I didn't think it right that she see me sleeping with anyone. The second night she was with her dad, and so Eric came to my room at bedtime.

He held me. Really, that's all he did. Eventually, over the course of his visit, we enjoyed more than that, but that first night he didn't push, didn't make comments, didn't even hit on me. He just sat on the floor of my room and held me, and let me cry and talk and shiver and get it all out. He healed me. I had not thought I'd ever find a male who could do that, put my needs ahead of his own, and here he was holding and embracing me, with nothing more in mind than to comfort me.

His unconditional love for me continued through several years. We broke up as lovers, but remained friends. We fell out of touch, then found each other again a couple of years before he died. I was going on a long drive to school twice a week, and I would put him on my earpiece, and we'd talk the whole journey. We spent countless hours discussing our school ventures, the twins (who weren't quite born at the time), etc.

Then one night he wasn't around when I called. Later that night, I got email from friends trying to find out his parents' phone numbers. Soon after that, I learned that he'd had a major brain aneurism and had died. They say he didn't suffer, and I hope that was true. I was devastated. The twins were born a few days later, and I felt guilty at the joy I felt holding them. I felt such grief as I'd never experienced before. The only thing that I could hold onto was the fact that I'd spent the night previous to his death talking to him, and I'd said repeatedly just how proud I was of him, and how much of a miracle he had been and was in my life. He went knowing he was loved.

So that's what I thought about yesterday. They're bittersweet memories, yes. I miss Eric still, though perhaps not every day anymore. Now it's more like once or twice a week that I think of him. But those memories are happy ones, proud ones, joyous ones.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thoughts on the first day of Hanukah

The first day of Hanukah finished at sundown this evening. I spent the day, amusingly enough, doing Christmas shopping. I suppose I'm easily amused, but I thought this was quite funny.

Last night, we went to church to celebrate Hanukah together, and light the first candle. It's the first time I've truly celebrated Hanukah, and not just paid it lip service. I should say, this year I am observing Hanukah, as opposed to just enjoying the celebratory aspects. It's interesting, and very different. It's really a very minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, and got pumped up so much only because it's opposite Christmas and Kwanzaa and all those other winter holidays. Like many of the Jewish holy days, the short version of the celebration goes like this: we were persecuted, G-d saved us, let's eat! I have a Jewish friend who always answers with that quote when I ask questions about Jewish holy days.

As a part of my exploration of Judaism this month for seminary, I am engaging in an eight day meditation series entitled "Miracle Meditations for Hanukah" by Rabbi Debra Orenstein. Her suggestion for the first day is to consider, "What are the miracles in the 'facts' and 'entitlements' and 'normal' progress of my daily existence?"

While I went about my day, I did just that. I thought about the daily miracles... the mundane miracles. I thought about how completely amazing it is that my daughter still has this wonderful, amazing, fantastic relationship with me despite being thousands of miles away with a person who hates me and poisons everyone against me. I pondered the fact that I am in a family that is unique and suits me perfectly and loves me for who I am, and who I am becoming. I contemplated the joy I have experienced so far in my seminary journey. I took time to say a prayer of thanks for having a friend and mentor in Pastor Alison, and for having a church that has accepted me in all my oddness. Above all, I thought with great joy on the fact that, though we may not have much money, we have enough and besides, our freezers are full of good food raised by our own hands, the garden still yields kale and cabbage despite the snow, and we have a basement full of wood that will keep us warm and cozy this winter.

These are my daily, mundane miracles.

Tonight, just after dinner, we lit the second candle on our Hanukia, our Hanukah menorah. I told the children the second part of the story about the Greeks defiling the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, and how the Macabees won it back through sheer tenacity and guerilla warfare. I did take the time to explain that Antiochus wasn't exactly a prime example of the happy Hellene, and that other Greeks didn't think much of him for persecuting the Jews the way he did. I managed to get the girltwin to participate in the Hebrew prayers over the candles, too, and she did a great job.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas is Coming

Our tree is up, our driveway is plowed out, and I'm cuddled up in my bed watching snow fall outside the window. It's a wonderful day, and I'm very happy. Friday is the first day of Hanukah, which we're going to celebrate this year. We already set up our Hanukia (the Hanuka menorah) and readied it for Friday's celebration. We'll be going to the church for the first night, as our pastor is holding a celebration with latkes and other delicious yumminess. The other seven days I'll be doing at home with the kids. I've been practicing saying the Hebrew prayers, and I'm rather proud of how well I'm doing. The kids have been learning alongside me, which is a lot of fun, and exciting, too!

This month my seminary class is studying Judaism, and so I'm enjoying the celebrations. I had planned on observing them anyhow, but it's nice to know it gets me credit on top of everything else. On the last day of Hanukah, I'm going to a Jewish synagogue to watch a Rabbi do it properly. I'm really looking forward to it!

I'm also looking forward to Yule, and to Christmas. Yule we're celebrating at home, with everyone here. I'm cooking up goose, and we'll sing some carols, open some gifts, and eat bad things. I've started making everyone's gifts, just little things but made with love. For Christmas we're going to Gray's parents' home, in St. Louis, MO. That'll be fun, too, because they're just incredible people, very tolerant of our odd ways. They cook up a storm, too, which is bad for my waistline but GREAT for my tastebuds. I admit, it's nice to go there and know that my major resposibility for the day is making sure I make my bed.