Okay, okay, so everyone's writing a post about Chanukah -- nu, why should I be different?
Growing up, I shared a simple Chanukah with my parents and brothers: the brachot and lighting of the candles, me, on the piano, accompanying my father while he led"Maoz Tsur"; eating some wonderful latkes which, although tasty, smelled up the house and whose fried smell lingered on our clothing; draidel playing with my brothers; eating chocolate coins; getting silver dollars as real Chanukah gelt. We were not big on gift-giving, instead getting what we needed -- pajamas, socks, etc. It was a simple, practical haimeshe kind of holiday...as it should be!
Of course, many years later, with family becoming extended and newer generations being born, there was more gift giving happening, but still the accent was on the gathering of family, the admiring the light of the candles and appreciating the fact that we were all together. (and yes, Pearl playing the piano for "Maoz Tsur" was still part of the picture!)
One year, my husband and I gave a wonderful Chanukah gift to our parents -- I wrote a poem that also served as a riddle of sorts. It introduced and announced my pregnancy with my oldest child.
About three years later, I stood in front of the Chanukah "licht" with child #2, then about 5 months old, and soon after wrote a poem about her, about whom she was named for, and about Chanukah in a town in Poland in 1942 compared to Chanukah 1997. (that poem, important to me, was published the next year)
A few Chanukahs have since passed. We are more than happy to still share the lighting of candles with our children and our parents; more than happy, we are thankful.
But personal family aside, the nicest Chanukah experience I ever had was in Far Rockaway, NY, about 10 years ago. My first cousin who has, bli ayin harah, ten children, had oil-filled chanukiahs for each of those ten children to light, as well as one for him and his wife. The room was illuminated with such a magnificent warm and all-embracing light; the reflection in the living room window was a sight to behold, and I went outside the house to stand on the sidewalk and take a photo of what was truly a picture window. It was really wonderful experience for me to see the light that was brought into that home over the Chanukah season.
I hope that each of you holds up a lit candle to light the chanukiah in your windows and may the light be cast right back and reflected on you and your families.