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Green Acre #454: Mistletoe and a Menorah

Mixed media! Just remember that mistletoe, at least the American variety, can cause indigestion when swallowed. Potato pancakes, latkes, on the other hand . . . don’t. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

By Stephanie Cavanaugh

I LOVED MARGOT; she was one of my dearest friends, and I miss her terribly. A woman who gave up downhill skiing only when she turned 80, she died last year, at 94, from a mosquito bite. She’d just finished renovating her beach-house kitchen. As I say, I miss her terribly. What I don’t miss is the wreath she gave me every year. Oh, it was nice and green and fresh-smelling, very full, ordered from Vermont and pricy. I hated it. 

The first thing I always did was to yank out the plastic cherries that studded the circle, and rip off the red “velvet” bow. Then I’d stick in bits of this and that, such as baby’s breath, purple statice, gilded pine cones, and whatever else appealed from the exhausted garden.  I’d change the bow to purple to match the window boxes, and string in tiny lights. The wreath did form an excellent base. 

This year I’ll use a wonderful brass wreath that Alice, another dear friend, gave me some years ago, fluff it out with cuttings from the bottom of the Christmas tree, tie it with the big purple ribbon and twist in white fairy lights.  No hurting Margot’s feelings.

All Christmas on the outside. Inside, it’s a bit different. Tonight is the first night of Chanukah. My Prince, my goy toy, and I celebrate the festival of lights along with Christmas. Tonight we’ll light the first of eight candles on Uncle Jimmy’s menorah, trim the Chanukah bush, and have latkes (potato pancakes) with Baby and her Personal Prince Pete, her goy toy,  and a few friends. Maybe I’ll gift everyone with lottery tickets and a bag of chocolate coins.* Wesley, our grandson, who’ll be 4 next week (as it happens, my mother’s birthday), will get a small gift. 

It’s a T-shirt with a dinosaur in a yarmulke playing with a dreidel, a spinning top with Hebrew letters on each side, a traditional game I’ve never played. While I was raised Conservative, we’ve always leaned toward secular—showing up at shul on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah and the occasional who-knows-what. So, I’ve always been what-do-I-do-with-this about the dreidel. 

When I saw the T-shirt on-line I lit up: Wesley adores dinosaurs (so what else is new?) so this felt perfect. When it arrived the other day I showed it to My Prince, who paled beyond an Irishman’s shade of white and said, “Do you want to get him stoned in the playground?”

My God. Has it come to this? 

I woke up this morning, wondering if I should even give him the shirt. He’s bound to love it—what does he know? It’s a dinosaur. In a yarmulke. I fear for him, I fear for my beautiful daughter: There’s madness in the air that goes beyond the current war. Hatred is spreading.

Wear it in the house only, my sweet bubeleh, my delightful blue-eyed, blond-haired baby boychik. Be safe. 

The horror.  

Ending on a note of uplift, and a bite of weird Jewish humor . . . As the mantra goes for many of our events, They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat. And so, my mama’s recipe for latkes, the best. You’ll kvell. Click here. 

*In ancient tradition, Jewish children gave money, called gelt,  to their teachers to thank them. In a modern miracle, we’ve turned the coins into chocolates. Let’s eat.



2 thoughts on “Green Acre #454: Mistletoe and a Menorah

  1. Mary K. Weddle says:

    A beautifully written piece, Stephanie. You are a strong woman, and we love you. I admire the way you have set an example, with your life and obviously your marriage, of tolerance, acceptance, and even celebration, of all peoples, even while remaining true to your faith and ideals. I am grateful your amazing daughter is the same. I hope Wesley wears his new shirt from Meema and Pawpaw with pride, though perhaps, as you say, inside for now. But we have to believe that this, too, will pass, and, I pray, at no greater cost than has already been paid.

  2. Karen Craft says:

    What a wonderful post. Thank you, Stephanie. This is what America is: some of this, some of that, Jews and Christians, vegans and meat eaters, black and white-together. Celebrating both what we have in common and how we differ. American is not: refusing to use the word Christmas (my Jewish friends wish me Merry Christmas and deliver Christmas presents to me, and today, I am preparing a Hanukkah drop-off for my friends and I have my menorah in my window) or refusing to honor American Jewish traditions.

    And your glancing but extremely moving nod to the horror of Oct. 7 and the resulting fear of Jewish Americans is heartbreaking. Happy Hanukkah to you and your family. And Merry Christmas.

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