The Fourth Candle
By Joan G Friedman
Of all the Chanukah memories I have as a child, prominently displayed in my memory bank are those spent with Zeidie. He arrived from Hungary and went (with his brother) straight to Scranton, Pennsylvania. My father was one of his ten children. They all had children of their own and everyone lived close to Zeidie's home.
The family gathered every Sunday for dinner with this wonderful man. His wife died more than twenty years before him. Zeidie's youngest daughter, Aunt Helen, and her family lived with him in his little house. When the sun was getting ready to set, he would admonish us from his dining room window. "It's finster in dresin," he would remind us all. In his eyes, driving home in the dark was not safe even though we did not live far away.
When we were in high chairs and refused to eat, Zeidie would bring out a leather pouch of silver dollars and sit with us. We could play with the coins, under his supervision, as long as we ate. (Can we blame being overweight now because of this early start of being bribed to eat? I guess not!)
Especially memorable was Chanukah. There were no store-bought decorations hanging to remind us of the holiday but, when you walked in the parlor, you just knew it was Chanukah. Zeidie had coins for all of us. Each one made us feel very special. We would sit on his lap in front of his very old menorah. We would tell him about our lives and he always had time to listen.
Nowadays, we all decorate with our collection of Chanukiahs (menorahs) and Stars of David. Some have banners and ribbons strung from chandeliers or stairways. I know, I know. This is the commercial variation. There are piles of presents in special Chanukah wrap and much gift exchanging.
The only likeness to the days with Zeidie are the latkes and the brisket. Still as delicious as ever, we enjoy our family dinners. While opening the presents, the grandchildren entertain us with "Dreidle" and "Maoh Tsur" and what their projects were in Sunday School. I know Zeidie is listening.
Zeidie passed away, at age 84, on the fourth candle of Chanukah. So when we light the candles the night before, I remember Zeidie. With our Chanukah celebration with our children and grandchildren, I always think back to my childhood spent with him. But when I light the fourth candle, I remember him most of all.
Joan G Friedman, granddaughter of Jacob Harry Greenberger, contributes articles to newspapers in the US and Canada, and may be reached at email@example.com. Her new novel, "The Lakes of Island Springs," is available at Border's and on Amazon.
from the December 2009 Edition of the Jewish Magazine