Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The sky is crying. Pellets of water are flung earthward to a steady staccato beat. Its cadence, usually soothing, today only irritates her. The woman at the window draws her sweater tight around her shoulders, cloaking herself in its protection.

Wrinkles run around her face in dizzying loops, dating her like the rings of a tree. She had once been a cedar, she thinks, seasoned and hardy and unyielding, but now fatigue is wrapping its heavy arm around her.

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Gnarled hands place a menorah on a small table, insert candles into their holders, prepare the matches and prayer book. On her third attempt, flame erupts from the wooden stick and haltingly, she feeds it to the candles.

Their glow is hypnotic, drawing her into a place of warmth, transforming the room into a cocoon of light and life. The flames dance and whisper. They summon her closer and she obeys, lured by their murmuring. She wraps her sweater tighter and listens.

* * * * *

In 1902, in a place untouched by modernity, a silversmith hunched over me in his dim workshop. Satisfied with his work at last, he wiped his greasy hands on his apron and placed me in his shop window. My eight branches glinted at passersby until I caught the eye of a kerchiefed woman in need of a menorah. Her home became mine too.

Giant waves of change crashed over Europe, surging all the way to our little village, a jumble of isms in tow. Daughters and sons were washed away: many drifted, some drowned. Each child that left the woman dealt her a fresh salvo of pain. On Chanukah, my frame of eight branches stood tall while the frames of the woman and her husband stood shrunken and lonely.

Decades passed. The continent percolated, bubbling and hissing of impending doom. The woman’s daughter fled across the Atlantic into the welcoming embrace of American freedom. Opportunity beckoned, shimmering more than my silver branches ever could. Nostalgia compelled the daughter to kindle my lights some years, even as her own spark gasped and sputtered.

Time marched on, trampling nations and ideologies even as it cleared earth for new ones to take root. The first time the granddaughter lit me, her husband looked on with tightly-pursed lips. The second, red and green lights were reflected on my surface. It would be the last.

So for years I lay, neglected, dented, tarnished, in a cardboard carton that seemed to me a coffin. The attic was smothered in dust and darkness and I was choking.

And now you stand here, warmed by a sweater and eight small flames, my worn and weary savior. You see my lights seeing the light of day.

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