This is my first winter in the house, and what I’m noticing is how very, very dark it is here at night. For so many years, I have lived with the ambient light of high rises and the urban scene. So you can imagine how warming those Hanukkah candles have been each night.
We’ve done it! We’ve reached the Solstice, which is all about light at the darkest time of year. Now the days start getting longer.
Thank goodness for these traditions that invite us to light up our worlds in this time of deep darkness. I light a candle for the important women in my life who are now gone. The first night and each of the seven nights that follow, the first two candles are lit for my mother Rose and her mother Nettie.
Fourteen years ago, I had a remembrance published in Grand-Stories edited by Ernie Wendell. Here’s my memory piece from that book. Enjoy, and may your light shine brightly every night!
Let the Candle Burn
Every winter, during the season of darkness, I light candles to honor my grandmother. Whether lighting the menorah for the festival of lights, Hanukkah, or warming a room with a scented candle, I remember a long‑ago moment and a story.
When I was a teenager, years after the novelty of dreidel games of childhood Hanukkah celebrations wore off, my mother and I would light the candles of the menorah and sit together, lights off, to watch their flickering. Sometimes we were quiet. Sometimes she told me stories.
One year, she told me a story about my grandmother. When mother was my age, in the 1930s, they lived by the railroad tracks. Hoboes would jump off the passing trains and knock on their back door.
My grandmother would give the hoboes food and coffee‑‑for anyone was welcome at their home. Even though times were hard and everyone was poor, my grandmother always found something to share. Her mother taught her to never let someone who was hungry pass her gate. For the weary traveller, an open home is a healing sight.
How did others know this home welcomed them? A notch on the back gate. A candle burning in the window.
For my mother, and for me, the lit menorah belongs in our windows, with its drops of light letting passers‑by know that this is a Jewish home, and they are welcome here. Similarly, I want my life to be equally hospitable, welcoming the weary and the joyful alike.
Sitting in my darkened room, I watch a candle burn and notice the reflection in my large windows to the world. I remember my grandmother and my mother with the tender, poignant candlelight of memory.
I hope that who I am flickers light and hope into the darkness of our winters. Let the candle burn from the window of my spirit to yours.®