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An Imaginary Conversation With My Potential Child When I Tell Her About Hanukkah
Cast of Characters
Me: Late thirties/early forties (what’s the rush?).
Daughter: Five years old. Looks like a cross between myself and Michael Fassbender, or possibly like myself and one of my guy friends (???!!!).
Early 2020s. My daughter and I are sitting in our Space Colony or apartment — who knows what the future will bring.
Me: So then there was a temple that was destroyed. And it needed to be cleaned up, which people could do only by the light of a menorah. I’m not sure why they didn’t just open a window to get natural sunlight? Anyway, there was supposed to be enough oil for it to burn for only one day, but, and here’s where your mind will get blown — the oil lasted for about a week!
Daughter: That’s it? All my friends have Christmas, and we just have an oil-based holiday?
Me: [forced] An oil-based miracle.
Daughter: I think we’re overusing the word miracle, Maman. [My fantasy future children will use French words on occasion when trying to prove a point.]
Me: But it’s a festival of lights! I know. FOMO was actually invented by your ancestors the day after Thanksgiving 1 A.D.
Daughter: What do we do on Christmas Day, then?
Me: We fool ourselves into thinking we’re having fun spending the day with other cranky, depressed Jewish people at busy Chinese restaurants and movie theaters. We’ll watch Oscar contenders released on Christmas Day as a family, and they will always feature an uncomfortable amount of nudity.
Daughter: Okay, help me get into this. What are the foods we eat on Hanukkah?
Me: Potato pancakes! Which we make in oil. See what I did there? And the children receive golden chocolate coins, since Jewish children love money so much.
Daughter: That feels a bit racist.
Me: Fair point.
Daughter: Who brings us presents? Do we have anything like Santa Claus?
Me: Nope. Just your Dad and me. But there will be eight presents! Though, in fairness, after the first night we’ll be phoning it in. School supplies can be presents too.
Daughter: Christmas is always December 25, so when is Hanukkah exactly?
Me: Great question! I have no idea. You’ll never know this either, and will Google it every year, then promptly forget.
Daughter: I love Christmas songs! Do we have a Hanukkah equivalent of “Silent Night” or “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”?
Me: Yes! As of now, we have two whole songs. One is by Adam Sandler about O.J. Simpson and marijuana, and the other is about a poor child who had to bake his own toys out of clay.
Daughter: Sorry for such a basic question, but what is the correct spelling of Hanukkah, anyway?
Me: [breaks down] Why are you asking me such difficult questions? After thousands of years, no one’s cared enough to put in a conference call or something to get on the same page for a standardized spelling. Put a C or two Ks, creative spelling is half the fun of our holiday season! Look, you’re old enough to hear what I heard when I was your age, there’s no way around it: I’m sorry, but we’re Jewish.
Daughter: But is there anything even worthwhile about being Jewish?
Me: One day you’ll understand this. [Silently hands over a copy of the “Palestinian Chicken” episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Portnoy’s Complaint.] Listen, we may have the crappiest holiday since our other crappy holiday, Purim, but you have many reasons to be proud of being Jewish: We gave the world self-awareness, circumcision, and Mandy Patinkin. Now who wants to play dreidel?!
Epilogue: I play dreidel with my daughter for 10 seconds until we both realize that children aren’t as into spinning tops as they used to be. Then we take off on our Hoverboards.
Michelle Markowitz is a comedy writer and storyteller in New York. She co-hosts the comedic storytelling shows “Failing Our Twenties” and “Hookups & Hang-Ups,” and can be found online (usually talking about her love of Chipotle) @michmarkowitz and michellemarkowitz.com.