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Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Simplest of Sentiments

The simplest of sentiments are sometimes the things that have the most impact on us; they are the things that make us stop and remember just how grateful we are for all we're blessed with.

Today is the last day of Hanukkah. It has been 8 days of festive celebrating, learning, anticipation, and joy. The majority of my joy has come from watching The Mad Hatter and her contagious excitement over every song we've listened to, each candle we've lit, and each latke we've eaten.

Her pride when I, her mommy, went to her preschool to spend the morning reading a book, serving potato latkes and applesauce, and helping the children make a Hanukkah craft to take home with them. As the teacher put on a Hanukkah song where each child had a chance to enter the center of the circle and spin like a dreidel - giving MH the honor of being the first "dreidel".

My pride when people asked her if she'd been a good girl this year for Santa Claus and she quite simply replied "I don't celebrate Christmas, so Santa doesn't come to my house. I celebrate Hanukkah and we light a menorah!".

And the presents. 8 nights of them from Daddy and I, along with many others from very generous grandparents, an uncle who dotes on MH as if she were his own, and various other friends and family members.

Growing up, the tradition was that when Dad got home from work, we lit the menorah, opened a gift, and ate dinner. After dinner, we'd spend some time playing with our new toy, spinning the dreidel, and spending time together as a family.

Since the MH is just a little more than a month away from turning 4 and she'd never eat dinner if we let her open a gift beforehand, we've had to reverse our own family tradition a bit for now.

However, one tradition has not changed, and hopefully it never will.

Every year during Hanukkah, my Mom makes it a point to get our family together for a Hanukkah gathering. Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around this tradition, and I'm sure if you ask my brother or my two first cousins, they'd tell you the same.

Our family wasn't (as I learned only as I got older) the norm. We celebrated every holiday with both sets of grandparents and my cousins' grandparents. My brother and I literally grew up thinking we had three sets of grandparents. Our family was not huge, but it was everything, and we knew it.

At these Hanukkah gatherings, the amount of gifts were insane. Since there were only four grandchildren, the adults took it upon themselves to dote on us most generously. There would be piles of gifts, and one of the adults calling out children's names until we each had an enormous pile in front of us. There were huge black garbage bags of wrapping paper hauled out of the way by my father. There was tons of excitement, tearing into toys, and sharing with each other.

There was a colossal amount of love.

Fast forward to today, when there is a new generation of children. For almost four years, MH was the only grandchild - the star of the show! And this past year, we were blessed with the addition of a new cousin, the son of my cousin and her husband.

Little C will be one in just a month, and he adores his big cousin MH. The feeling is definitely mutual. At yesterday's family Hanukkah celebration, they were both the stars of the show.

My cousin and I chatted about how we were immediately transported back to our youths when we looked at the amount of gifts set out for our little ones. It was like deja vu as envelopes of Hanukkah gelt (money) from our grandmother were passed out to everyone, as each of our children accumulated more gifts than they could manage, and as my father, once again, hauled away bagfuls of wrapping paper. It was us watching ourselves all over again, only this time through our children's eyes, which is by far better than any tangible gift I could ever receive.

Our celebration lasted all afternoon and into the evening.

Last night, as MH and I were snuggling after her bath, I asked her what her favorite part of the day was. Without hesitation, she answered "My favorite part of the day was helping Mimi (her great-grandmother) give everyone their gift."

As I sat and tried to silently process the simplicity of her statement, in wonderment that her sentiment did not include a thing about all the presents she received, she continued.

"Actually, Mom, I had a few favorite parts. One was when we lit all the candles, and my other favorite part was that I got to sit next to Sweetheart while we were eating dinner."

She didn't see, but I had tears in my eyes.

There are times when I lose my patience with her because she asks a million questions and no answer is enough. There are times when I want to go nuts because she can be so demanding. There are times when I am not as grateful for being a mom as I should be.

And then there are times like this, when the world just seems to stop. When all the things that make up being a mom all fall into place and perspective and as a parent you stand in awe.

MH, at 3 years, 10 months, and 20 days, you have more perspective than most people our my age. Your personality is magnetic, your love of life infectious, and your displays of love and affection immeasurable.

As a first-time Mom, I often second-guess myself, doubt myself, and worry whether I'm getting this "gig" right. I'm pretty sure it just comes along with the territory. But at times like this when I have a rare moment to sit down and reflect, it's easier to see the big picture a bit more clearly. And I'd have to say that based on what we've seen in this last year, and especially this holiday season, Daddy and I must be doing something right.

We love you so much, and could not ask for a sweeter, more caring, or beautiful little girl. Our wish for you is that it is a very long time before the little bubble of innocence and purity that surrounds you is touched by the true reality of life.

To call you "special" would not do you justice, and there are no words that could ever express the amount of love we have for you.

11 Fabulous Replies:

debbie said...

I know I just cried reading this. So happy that these memories that you and your cousin have from so many years ago still live on. I guess that mission has been accomplished when you KNOW that YOUR children know the most important thing.....FAMILY and TRADITION! I guess I realize that long after I'm gone(I hope not for a long time), this tradition will
still continue. Thanks for sharing something very special. With love...Sweetheart

Elaine A. said...

What an absolute beautiful post!

I think family traditions are SO important and I loved reading about how yours are being carried on...

You are definitely doing something right with MH! She's so sweet and kind.

Glad to hear you all had a wonderful Hanukkah celebration!

Poppy said...

I not only second eveything sweetheart said MH, but I also third, fourth and I might add FIFTH it too :). May you always value and enjoy all the family traditions that your mommy and daddy expose and teach you about. They are some of the most important lessons you will learn from. I like sweetheart hope I am here long enough to spend many many with you :)

MarvelousMOM said...

What a beautiful post. You are definitely doing right as a mother and have a wonderful little girl to be proud of.

Pam said...

Rachael, I'm getting vehklempt here and I haven't even finished my coffee!! So sweet.

♥georgie♥ said...

Geesh i am teary eyed now...beautiful just beautiful!

Julie said...

Awwww I love MH! Glad you had a fab Hanukkah! I need to learn how to make latkes....

Lipstick said...

Oh Rach this is so beautiful!!! It brought tears to my eyes, and I love that MH calls her Gmother "Sweetheart"...so precious.

Melissa said...

such a beautiful post!

It's wonderful to have those moments of pride in your child, and knowing that you are doing something right.

(Sorry it took me so long to make it over here. I've been trying to get caught up with all my regular reads.)

Lisa said...

beautiful story. it sounds like your holiday was wonderful. and how wonderful that Mad Hatter is so proud of who she is and what her family believes. some of our best friends are jewish, and I think it's so wonderful that we celebrate that Ethan (their little guy) celebrates Hanukkah and they celebrate that our girls celebrate Christmas!
Happy 2009 to you!

Lisa said...

PS - I LOVE latkes. Yummo to my prego tummo!