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F is for Friendship: Chanukah Miracles

Ruchama Schnaidman

Real fire was flashing around a little menorah in the living room and leaping toward the walls. And even though every part of me turned to liquid, somehow I screamed. The loudest, most frightening sound came out of my mouth

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

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S o when you think Chanukah, what do you think? Doughnuts, menorahs, presents, latkes, chocolate coins? I’ll bet you nodded your head at least once for each of those things (maybe even twice for the chocolate coins?).

The thing is… when I think about Chanukah, I don’t think about any of those things. Ever since the great big story that changed my life forever, there’s another Chanukah theme I focus on. It’s actually the main theme of Chanukah, but one that’s usually overlooked — I’m talking about the theme of nissim, miracles.

It’s the dreidel that started it all. Here’s my story:

I’m not a babysitter. Obviously, I’m an elementary school student, but if you lived in my neighborhood you’d know what I mean. We have two groups of people — the babysitters and the callers. Basically, the first families that moved to our area already have daughters old enough to babysit, and their numbers are on the speed-dial lists of all the younger families who came next. Since my family is one of the oldest families on our block and an all-girl family, that pretty much ensures that our phone doesn’t stop ringing!

My sisters are babysitters — and they literally have waiting lists of people who plan their itineraries around their schedules. But I’m not a babysitter. I’m just 12 and not particularly fond of babies. I don’t volunteer my services and politely says no any time someone asks.

Well, most times. Except when we get a call from The Desperates. No, the Desperates isn’t the name of a family on our block; it’s a type of family. The type that never fully learned the meaning of the word no, the type who answers my, “So sorry, wish I could help, but I can’t” with, “The kids will all be sleeping and we’ll pick you up at eight. Bye!”


The Desperates (actually their name is Taube) called our house last year on the second night of Chanukah. It was a Tuesday night and we had nothing planned. We didn’t even have one latke, doughnut, or chocolate coin in our house (which may have contributed to the following conversation) when Mrs. Taube called.

I immediately heard it in her voice — she was a Desperate, my sisters were at their school’s Chanukah party, and I didn’t want to babysit!

“So we’ll pick you up at eight?” Mrs. Taube asked.

“Okay, I guess,” I said. “Uh,” I added, hit with a sudden inspiration, “can I bring a friend?” “Of course!” Mrs. Taube said. “Whatever will make you feel comfortable.”

I hung up the phone and that’s when I realized — too late, of course — that she hadn’t mentioned anything about sleeping kids. That’s because all four Taube kids were bouncing off the walls by the time Penina and I arrived.

“What should we do?” I screamed. (I had to scream to be heard above the noise, you understand.)

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