It was the Hanukkah of Cold and the Hanukkah of Adventure.
It was the Hanukkah of Change.
It was a hundred years ago and it was ten. It was last year and it was last month. It was a time when the world was a certain way — before it became a different kind of world, a certain other kind of way.
It was a dream. It was a time of whispering and a time of Percocet.
It was a Hanukkah of so much light.
It was just before Hanukkah when they picked up Grandma for her birthday dinner and her legs were swollen. So it was that they went to a very quick dinner – and then straight to the hospital.
For she surely had a blood clot.
Because Grandma was then hospitalized and her son stayed at her bedside, there could not be a family trip to Philadelphia. But there was business to take care of there, anyway. So without her husband, a mom and her three children planned to board the plane.
They left early that next morning for Philadelphia. It was there, on the airport train – while gathering the children –that the mother heard the angels whisper to her for the very first time.
“We are one”, they said. “We are the first light. We are flexibility.”
She looked at the other passengers to see if anyone else had heard. She opened her mouth to speak – to ask her kids just this thing, when…
“Shhhhh”, the angels said.
Once in Philadelphia they explored the Reading Market. Despite the bitter cold they walked to the Liberty Bell. They walked down to South Street. They warmed up with a lunch of fish and chips. She and the children then found their way back to Macy’s to listen to the Wurlitzer organ play a concert.
It was while they were in the Magic Gardens that the angels returned.
“Here we are”, they said. “We are two. We are the second of the lights. We are the creativity of the human spirit.” She saw them only out of the corner of her eye. She was about to open her mouth to speak, when…
“Shhhh”, they said. And left.
Back at the apartment that night she and the children made soup. They picked through the bookshelves and videos. They watched West Side Story, the first time for the kids. They danced and cried and cuddled and finally went to bed.
In the morning they washed the linens, finished cleaning the apartment, turned in the keys and took a cab to the bus station.
They slept on the bus ride from Philadelphia to Manhattan – until the yawning of the Lincoln Tunnel — the opening to their next adventure. Her phone pinged, waking her. Grandma had been released from the hospital. Her husband would be joining them the next day. She smiled to herself and snuggled closer to the still-sleeping ten-year old.
It was then that she heard them: “We are three” – whispered the angels in the tunnel. We are the third of the lights. We are optimism.”
She opened her mouth to speak – and then…
“Shhhh”, said the angels of the tunnel.
They unlocked the door to their rental apartment. They dropped their bags and headed out again to pick up basics – oatmeal, juice, cocoa, snacks. They chose their beds; they unpacked.
In her bag, wrapped in a sweater, she uncovered her menorah. She took it into the kitchen and set it on the counter next to the sink. Her phone pinged…her husband had sent his arrival time.
“Daddy’s plane gets in early tomorrow”, she told her children.
All good news.
After the excitement of reuniting the next morning (and some coffee), they ventured out to the Natural History Museum. They admired the enormous orbs representing the planets.
And it was there, among the dark spheres, that the angels were hiding.
They whispered, again only to her: “We are four. We are the fourth of the lights – we are the paradox. We are keepers of hidden light. Even when you cannot find the light – it is there.”
And as they floated away among the planets she opened her mouth to speak; they called to her, trailing away…“shhhh”.
Needing a minute to take it all in, she sat down.
After many more hours of walking New York City and so much more exploring, they picked up Chinese food on the way back and shared it for their dinner, around the coffee table.
Now they could light the Hanukkah candles.
And sing the prayers, all together now.
They ushered more light into the world. And gratitude. And miracles.
It was then, up, up near the ceiling she saw them sneak in, those angels.
“We are five”, they said.
“We are the five lights of family. Because of us, one candle plus one candle can bring so much light – even more than that of two. We are love.”
The angels drifted back into the darkness. She opened her mouth to speak as they disappeared, but… “Shhhh,” they whispered.
After the menorah candles burned down, the family was ready for another adventure. They put on their jackets and headed out — this time into Times Square.
For it was long ago in another time when the world was a different kind of way – that there was a store; a place for children and for all who were imaginative.
They were on their way to this place.
It was called FAO Schwartz. Once there, they played the step piano. They walked the aisles and dreamed dreams.
It was the Hanukkah of Christmas Eve.
And when it was almost midnight – oh yes — when it was almost midnight they rode the FAO Schwartz Ferris wheel. Around and around. Laughing, she looked at her husband and her children, and hoped she would remember this moment forever.
It was then, through the Ferris wheel that the angels arrived. “We are six”, they whispered to her. “We are the sixth of the lights. We are joy.”
She opened her mouth to speak to them, but…“Shhhh”, they said.
And faded into the night.
Tired now, the children and their parents piled into the taxi and headed uptown.
Chilly and warm.
All at the same time.
They all slept late on Christmas morning. And oh, what a beautiful morning it was, shiny and sparkly after new snow. So much white, so much light.
This was an epic trip for them all – and because of this they had made a plan to ice skate in Central Park.
It had always been the plan. But the best-laid plans…
The pain began all at once — and it was strong. Too much. And screaming. More light. Too much light. The wrong kind. A taxicab to the hospital.
A diagnosis: a kidney stone.
It was the Hanukkah of snow, of adventure – and of Percocet.
The hospital angels came to her all at once. They whispered to her, there in the emergency department. “We are seven”, they said.
“The seventh light. We are pain. We are the unexpected pain that will come into your life. We will teach you perseverance.”
She was still too disoriented from pain to respond to them…but as they floated away they said “shhhh”.
There was no ice skating that day. But (thanks to the pain medication) there was, later, a walk in the snow. And there was still laughing.
The only way forward was forward.
That night – they stood in the kitchen, smiling, singing the prayers. They lit the menorah.
Which was, all at once, alight.
It had caught fire. Thinking quickly, she knocked the menorah into the sink and turned on the cold water, dousing the fire”.
“Ssssss”, it hissed — as the fire went out.
She did not see the angel that appeared behind her just then. “I am eight,” said that angel.
“I am the eighth light. I am danger. I will always be a gift to you. Because of me you will value safety.”
She opened her mouth to speak – but just then, there was smoke. She heard “shhhhh” and the angel was gone.
Needing a minute to take it all in, she sat down.
She began to cry.
Not because of the danger and not because of the pain – but because of the light.
It had been all so much, too much, in too small a time.
It was a Hanukkah of Fire and a Hanukkah of Angels.
And oh, so much light.