It’s Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights. And this year, we’ve spent twice the amount of time celebrating. Why? Because I’m part of two families now!
We had our first party with my side of the family. My parents hosted me and my siblings and all their grandchildren as well as my boyfriend and his daughter for a get together we won’t soon forget. It being my mother’s birthday as well, they hired a chef and we spent a fun evening enjoying an outstanding dinner as well as traditional jelly donuts, or sufganiyot for dessert. My parents bought presents for everyone and it’s the first time that my kids truly understand what this holiday is all about. It wasn’t the presents or the gelt (chocolate coins) or the donuts, but the feeling of being surrounded by so many people they love.
The second party involved an equally amazing celebration hosted by my boyfriend and his family. It wasn’t too long ago that we introduced our families to one another, but looking at them that night, it was as though they had known each other all their lives. My son ran to the door to greet my boyfriend’s father. Then, the cousins, including my boys, ran around chasing one another, opening presents and laughing. When it came time to light the menorah, I had already left to take Ari to play hockey while Josh stayed behind. My boyfriend’s sister sent me a photo of Josh as he lit the Chanukah candles with my boyfriend. I stared at the photo for a long time on my iPhone—it was more meaningful than I expected a photo could be.
Here I am, a divorced single mother with two little boys to care for on my own, and somehow I’ve ended up with not just one family, but two. That’s twice the people in my life who love and care for me and my kids. Double the number of relatives with whom we can celebrate milestones and holidays. And a single photo that has affected me beyond reason.
Sometimes, I’m not sure how any of this happened to me. I’ve spent many holidays wondering what if and what could have been, but now I think I get it. Since it seems like the time of year to thank everyone in my life who has been there for me and my boys, it seems only fitting that I thank my family, my friends who feel like an extension of my family, and all the people who aren’t technically related to me (yet) but whom I consider my family, too. Happy holidays and thank you for a special and memorable Chanukah.