Violet is ready to light the candles while Autumn plays inside the toy basket.
Hanging in our bathroom is a cheesy picture that says “Miracles happen everyday” above a brightly colored flower. It’s a little embarrassing, but the sentiment is nice, so I got over myself and agreed to let Mandi put it up. It has traveled with us since Mandi purchased it for some college apartment at least 10 years ago. Part of me wants to hang a little sign above it that says “this is Mandi’s picture; I think it is cheesy too. Love, Chai.” But that makes me sound like a curmudgeon and I actually agree with the thought. Anyway, all this to say that the idea of miracles reminds me of Chanukah and here we are in the midst of the holiday.
Last year was my most memorable Chanukah ever. My water broke on the first night and two and a half (loooonnnngg) hours later Violet and Autumn were born. It was a miracle on a night celebrating miracles. They were six and a half weeks early and it’s another miracle they waited that long after a bout of preterm labor followed by three weeks of contractions at five minute intervals. But they waited; those are my little fighters.
They survived the NICU, and I survived the NICU, albeit with way more crying than both babies combined. Why doesn’t anyone tell you that once you give birth you will cry more than you ever thought possible? I know I’m not the only one to experience this. Mandi says I’m making up for lost time for being inhuman and rarely crying before. Well, now I cry watching the news. I cry at movie previews when a parent is grieving or a child is sick. I even cry at effing commercials. I don’t know who I am anymore. Except I guess someone who has seen the fragility of human life in my own premature babies. Fortunately I also saw those darlings grow and become strong and come out healthy and beautiful on the other side of that month in the NICU. Even though there are many medical and scientific reasons for their existence and their health, they are still my little miracles and Chanukah will never be the same again.
Growing up my family would light candles and exchange gifts and eat latkes, but as an adult I haven’t really celebrated Chanukah. I only lit candles if I happened to walk by a nice someone from Chabad who was handing out free candles on the corner. But now Chanukah gives me a personal reason to be grateful and I purchased candles for our three menorahs several weeks in advance.
Even if Chanukah doesn’t fall on December 11, it will always be my daughters’ other birthday and another reason to celebrate Violet and Autumn. It will be a chance to reminisce about their birth day while lighting candles and eating fried foods and watching the girls open presents, or at least play with the wrapping paper. Even though we will celebrate the first year of Autumn and Violet this coming Saturday, it seems like we’ve been celebrating all week. Those lucky girls get a whole holiday in addition to their birthday.
I know some people debate the importance of Chanukah, after all it is a pretty minor holiday on a calendar filled with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and Passover and tons of other holidays. There is always a Jewish reason to celebrate. But whatever you think about lasting oil or violent uprising of the underdogs, it seems like a good idea to me to take a moment or say, eight days, to acknowledge the miracles in your everyday life.
This Chanukah I am surprised to find myself all sentimental about things. I guess this year has changed me. I cry at corny commercials. Two little girls call me mama. I can embrace cheesiness (in small doses). This morning when I straightened the flower miracle picture in the bathroom I didn’t cringe, not even in my thoughts. Instead, the corners of my mouth rose just a tiny bit in a smile. I’m looking forward to seeing what miracles the next year will bring.