Saturday, December 12, 2015

Bad Hanukkah Presents

As a public service announcement, Cookie would like to remind people that Hanukkah - The Jewish Festival of Light - is not NOT the Jew's version of Christmas.  That it falls in December is part an parcel of history.   But we are not celebrating the birth of a savior.  We are celebrating the miracle of light - that a tiny amount of oil that should have lasted half a night lasted for a week, plus.

THAT SAID, Cookie would ALSO like to remind the Jews that Hanukkah is NOT Christmas.  It is not a week of unbridled greed.  Yes, if you are lucky - you get a small trinket.  I know that there are a lot of you who think of a Lexus as a trinket, but it is not.  It's a luxury car.  A diamond ring is not a trinket.  It's a bauble.

So what is a trinket?  Think Cracker Jack prize without having to eat the damned Cracker Jack.

And if you are of certain age, like Cookie, you remember when you were lucky at all to get anything for Hanukkah.  Maybe a dollar from Bubbe.

Being from a mixed marriage, this is why I coveted Christmas with my mother's family - there is was all about PRESENTS and yummy food.

But in Shaker Heights, you got a grilled cheese, you lit a candle in honor of the oil, and then you maybe got a trinket.  Or a dollar from my grandmother.  Maybe a matchbox car from my father. Magic markers from my mother.

The extended family would use the holiday as an excuse to commit a drive by giftings.  If non Jewish kids get Santa, Jewish kids get elderly relatives that dart in and out with something small.

Included in this, my extended uncle and aunt Sid and Florence Amder - two of the nicest, kindest people ever.  Uncle Sid's brother was married to my father's sister.  They had no children of there own, but they always had something for the small kids.  Sid and Florence never forgot a holiday, or a hug or a compliment, but they gave the worst trinkets ever.  Included in the gifts given:

1965 - A roll of Cryst-O-Mint Life Savers
1966 - Toe Nail Clippers
1967 - Flashlight, without the batteries
1968 - Pot holders
1969 - Room thermometer

1970, however was a turning point in the gift giving.  The night that Sid and Florence arrived, my Cousin Joyce and her two children Chip and Petey were over, dining on grilled cheese with me.

Evidently, at eight years old, Sid and Florence decided that I had aged out the Hanukkah gift giving tradition.  I was in second grade, and no one told me this.  So imagine my sadness - everybody else got something, but I was left with nothing except a Revlon lipstick print on my cheek - at seeing the trinkets that they had brought to our house for my cousins children (who were closer in age to me than their parents), but none for me.

I admit it, I cried.  I didn't have a tantrum, it was a silent tear thing.  I was eight, and over the hill.  And Florence's "But you're a big boy now," did nothing to make my situation any less painful.  It was like being forgotten.

So Sid, God love him, ran out to the car opened the glove box and grabbed something.   He comes back into the house and stuffs the owner's manual to the old beat up Oldsmobile that they were driving.

Evidently Sid, sensing my confusion, fumbled for some words.

"Like your Aunt Florence said, you're a big boy, and you'll be a driver in about eight or nine years, and you like cars, so this is something really important for your future as a motorist...." and he kept rambling.

Honestly, my tears dried up.  The book was cool, with pictures, and I loved cars.  FINALLY, a present I could embrace.  So I gave them both a big hug.

And I was the envy of the younger children - my Cousin Chip, a year younger than me, made a grab for the manual, and I kicked in the nuts.  That manual was mine and he was not got cover it in snot and sticky fingers.  MINE!

After that Sid and Florence gave me auto brochures every year until I went to Junior High School.  And when they bought a new Oldsmobile, they came and took me for a ride.

Sid and Florence died years ago - everyone in my generation has retired to Florida or are going to Florida, and I have no idea what ever happened to the manual.

But the lesson learned from that is sometimes, the best present isn't practical.  It's just something grabbed and given.  A trinket.  You know?


  1. Sid sounds like a character. PS, Never quit blogging, I need this in my life!

    1. Bless you. What a wonderful Hanukkah gift!

  2. I think the trinkets are always the best gifts.
    This story is a trinket.

  3. This story is infinitely better than toe nail clippers.

    1. I had a friend who got a present from elderly unmarried aunt. His motjer, wiping the tears from her eyes as she told the story said that her son thought it was a squirt bottle. "So I said Miriam, what did you buy him? A little something on sale at Gray Drug. Does it squirt water, I asked and my husband's aunt said no. So in comes Matthew and asks if he can go back to the store and get another bottle, this one was empty. And I said get me the box, and he gives me the box, and I said "You bought him a Fleet Enema? And Aunt Miriam gets all flustered and says "I must have grabbed the wrong bag in the car? That's my enema!"

  4. Man, this hits close to home - literally and figuratively. ...and for the record, I LOVED cars - knew every make and model, as if I were Marisa Tomei's character in "My Cousin Vinny". for the record II: I don't even read my own car manual.

    1. My father was buddies with A.D. Palunis who had an Olds dealership in Lakewood. So everyone at our temple drove Oldsmobiles.

  5. I think even MacGuyver would be hard pressed to turn those trinkets into something useful?

    The Olds manual sounds like it was a cool gift. I'd've been happy with that, too!