My Mortifying Chanukah Party
I hesitate whether or not to share this story, since it is SO embarrassing. But then again, this morning I was so thoroughly humiliated that I decided, hey, why not just keep on going?
This morning was my child’s Chanukah party. All the children sitting in a semi-circle with all the mothers facing them, phones and cameras a-ready to capture priceless nachas moments for posterity.
My child was looking exceptionally cute in the Chanukah crown the teacher passed out, and, of course, I started getting all teary eyed. Feeling SO blessed, as a baalat teshuva, to have children who are growing up with stories of the Maccabees and the brave Jews keeping Shabbat and learning Torah in caves and not stories of a baby born in a manger, like I did.
And then my child, without warning, starting picking their nose. And continued doing so for nearly the entire hour and a half of the party.
I tried ignoring it, hoping that the child would soon stop.
I tried being so spiritual and intoxicated with nachas that I didn’t notice.
I tried walking across the room to give the child a tissue and whispering “no nose-picking, use a tissue instead” which worked for 3 seconds until the child dropped the tissue on the floor.
I tried thinking of all this child’s positive qualities.
I tried convincing myself that there were other mothers present who were just as mortified as I was by something their child was doing, but after scanning the children, I realized my child was the only possible suspect of public-mortification.
I tried imagining that none of the other mothers were noticing.
I tried imagining that none of the other mothers present knew that I was the nefarious nose-picker’s mother.
But since all of my frantic efforts failed so totally and miserably, I considered desperate plans of action. I would grab my child by the hand and leave the party. But my child was having such a great time! Then again, maybe I would just sneak out on my own, and leave my child to pick their nose to their heart’s content.
But I didn’t, I just stayed at the party, for the entire hour and a half, and was completely and thoroughly mortified.
After my child had consumed their sufgania and received their bag of treats, I returned home and took a good, long nap.
And when I woke up, very hungry, and I went into the kitchen and saw this bottle of olive oil on the kitchen table. I attended several Chanukah parties this week, and at one of them the teacher somehow superimposed photos of every child onto bottles of olive oil, accompanied by the words “These candles are holy” as a Chanukah gift. Every child is like a candle, the teacher was trying to tell us. A source of light. To brighten up the darkness. To brighten up the world.
And out of the blue, I thought of something Rebbetzin Heller once wrote which shook me up quite a bit when I read it several years ago. She was talking about spiritual desires vs. material desires. I don’t remember exactly what she wrote, but I do remember that on her list of material desires– among things like: the desire for a big house, fancy car, expensive clothing was, also, a parent’s yearning for perfect children.
Looking back at the olive oil, thinking of my child that morning, I read…”These candles are holy.”
But holy, definitely.
As holy as the candles and all the Jewish children, each one perfect and imperfect, that will light up our homes and the entire world this Chanukah.