Cosplay – Candy – Creepy Crawlies

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Yesterday was Halloween, and for those of us with children this is second in planning and importance only to Christmas. I’ve always loved Halloween. I like getting dressed up, I like decorating, I like theme desserts and meals, and the specialness of the different time of the year.

I have been somewhat lazy in the last couple of years, and my daughter discovered my holiday boxes. She has taken it upon herself to drag them up from the basement, and make the house, inside and out, look magical and perfectly balanced for the holidays, especially Halloween and Christmas. And I hate to admit, because I was really good at it, but she is better. She’s faster, she’s creative, she thinks outside the box, and it’s just a beautiful display.

Outside lights and pumpkins, decorated for Halloween. (c)2018


This year, her costume was the the 13th Doctor as portrayed by Jodie Whittaker. There were some things that she wanted, and needed to buy, but there were others that I just refused – no to $20 yellow suspenders (“but I’ll wear them more than once,” and she probably would) and I said no to the $30 new sonic screwdriver, and she borrowed my boots that coincidentally are almost exactly the same at the Doctor’s. For the sonic screwdriver, she spent $2 on orange sparkly lights from Target and used aluminum foil and built herself a sonic screwdriver, pictured below.

Handmade/homemade Sonic Screwdriver (belonging to the 13th Doctor). (c)2018


The Doctor. (c)2018


My son grabbed his Flash t-shirt and ring, and went to school as Barry Allen, the Flash’s alter-ego. He has his own wonderful way of being creative and creating costumes and decorations from what he already has. I’m glad that they’re both so independent minded and creative.

Barry Allen (The Flash). (c)2018


(c)2018


My cosplay was a riff on the one I did in 2016. In 2016, I saw an everwidening chasm towards the vilification of journalists, and it concerned me. I’m a strong proponent of free speech and a free press. They are so important to our country, to our ideals, to our democracy. This Halloween I had intended to be a professor from the Harry Potter world, a Hufflepuff, of course. And then the President continued with the enemy of the people rhetoric, Gianforte is running for re-election (google Ben Jacobs, journalist), Bob Woodward published a very frightening look at the Trump White House (and he and Carl Bernstein are personal heroes of mine), and then The Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi walked into a Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey, and never walkied out. He was murdered, assassinated, but not just that, the level of response from the White House and from the Republican side of Congress appalled me, so I thought it was important to take a stand, especially this week before Election Day.

I Remember…Chanukah

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This is my daughter’s dresser. I don’t know how her clothes fit in here. With the closet and the pjs under her bed, sweaters in the basket next to the dresser, she manages to get it all in. Mostly. This was my dresser when I was a baby, but what I remember this dresser most for was hat it sat in the living room of our NYC apartment (and later of our suburban house). In our two bedroom apartment it was placed against one long wall directly across from our green patterned sofa. During Passover, we’d walk along it on our way to leave a glass of wine for Elijah on the radiator.

In front of the radiator was a television stand, one of those carts with wheels that our television sat on. I remember sitting on that sofa watching Fonzie jump over a shark on Happy Days (although I think that it’s the sofa I’m remembering and not the apartment.) I also remember spending a day or two curled up there, under a warm blanket when I was sick and stayed home from school. It is a comforting memory of warm soup or mashed sweet potatoes with butter and the television.

Behind the television cart is a medium sized picture window that I can still see my brother and I looking out of while we were home with the chicken pox. When we recovered, my sister got them. Some things we didn’t mind sharing more than others.

What I remember most about that dresser, though is the three little piles of Chanukah presents on the floor in front of it, waiting to be opened each night after we lit the candles on the menorah. The menorah was placed on the dining room table on a small sheet of aluminum foil. My mother would never put the burning candles on the dresser; they might start a fire. As the oldest and the only one attending Hebrew school as it were, it was probably my job to do most of the lighting. The candles came in a box of forty-four, different colors that were randomly chosen each night and lit, reading the prayer from the side of the box. We might sing a song and play dreidl. My cousins lived in the same garden apartment complex so they were probably around more often then not. We went to the same shul where we learned the songs and traditions of the holidays. I thought I remembered it differently but when I saw those cousins recently they had the same memories of music in the school basement and we kids not being allowed into the temple on the High Holidays. We used to play in the parking lot, which seems a ludicrous idea today.

Describing the gifts as a pile makes it seem much bigger than it actually was. Yes, there were eight gifts, but they were all small things. Each one wrapped carefully in white paper adorned with multi-hued blue Stars of David and dreidls. We would of course get dreidls and gelt, probably on the first night. One of my favorite things about celebrating Chanukah today is the taste of the gelt. It’s not anything fancy or special but it tastes exactly the same as it did when I was a schoolgirl. My kids wonder why I won’t share mine with them. After all, they each get their own bag of gelt.

Choosing which gift to open was a several minute decision making process. Picking each package up, shaking it slightly, bringing it to my ear as if I would hear something or smell something underneath the packaging and the paper. Nothing was hidden; it was all wrapped around whatever the shape of the package was. Shake the rectangular box. Should I open the Barbie doll shaped package? Or the Barbie doll clothes shaped package? There might have been puzzles and books too. No Nintendo. No tablets. No smartphones. What a simple, beautiful time that holiday was. Everyone in our court had an electric menorah in their windows or their curtains were open and we could see the candles burning deep inside their apartments.

There were also latkes to look forward to. They came from a box, but after mixing and refrigerating and then frying them in the pan, they were as homemade as they could be. The house smelled of the oil, and they were eaten hot with applesauce and sour cream. Back then, they were the only thing that I ate sour cream with. When I cook them today for my family, I still use vegetable oil. They are the only things that I cook in vegetable oil. I tried olive once, but the smell didn’t work for me, so I went back to the usual vegetable oil and they were perfect. Applesauce and sour cream could give any kind of potato pancake that latkes taste, even frozen or those triangles from Arby’s, but there is nothing like the real thing, frying them alongside the burning candles on the dining room table.

For the holiday we celebrate in our family with my children, we keep Chanukah separate from Christmas. That is my personal thing; pet peeve if you will; the one tradition I don’t want to share. I’m fine with families that celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas; we’re one of them, but I prefer to keep the two separate even when they fall in the same week. My personal feeling is that it keeps their significance and their importance significant, and important. For Chanukah, we don’t give eight presents anymore. Some years they might get one larger gift on the first night, but most years they get a new dreidl and a bag of gelt. Some years they get stickers or pencils or an extra something, but we still keep it a little simpler.

Simple, minimalist, centered on the eight candles burning like they kept the fire burning in the temple for eight days until the oil could get there. Just like Christmas, it is a reminder of a time long ago, a history that we forget too often, and the simplicity of working together and taking care of each other.

That’s what this dresser reminds me of – my family and all the special things they taught me, especially when they weren’t trying to teach me anything at all.

Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

Happy Chanukah.