Eights Days of Presents

by Evelyn Stettin
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hanukkahstamp.jpgTruthfully, Hanukkah makes me anxious. It’s one of those performance things. Not about making crispy incredible latkes or the homemade applesauce or the chorus of songs after the blessings. No, it’s the presents. Giving exactly the right gift meant you know exactly what the kid needs. A mom’s job, right? Um... Know who they are and you know what they want? Right? Um... Could we call it generalized mother present anxiety syndrome? Hanukah really ups the ante on the whole thing. I mean, Christmas, ok, one day. If you blow it – well, sayonara until next year, baby. But, Hanukah! Eight days! Every night! Really? I mean, who thought of that? Not the Maccabees when they decided they’d had enough of the Greeks.

I raise my hand in admission of guilt. You see, my husband and I disagreed over giving gifts. Him against me. How can you not give gifts to little kids? All those latke and Hanukah gelt (Hanukah chocolate coins) turned up at the lights, wishing for a little present just like the Playstation (I’m dated, I know) his friend, Avi, got last year. I won the argument. Over gifts. Kind of like winning a ticket to do all the dishes all the time.

hanukkahgifts2.jpgWhen my kids were little, it was easier. But still, I like to start worrying somewhere around the end of July. Unfortunately, more time hasn’t produced better results. A long time line is really good, though, to build up the anxiety. So by December 1st it’s full out panic. But I’m better than that, so I let it go a few days past the deadline I absolutely decided was past the latest I could begin. Got that? Basically, it means I put my head under the Hanukah "gift" pillow until it’s too late. Then, I look at the calendar in surprise that Hanukah begins tomorrow. At this point, it’s time for shallow breathing, a dash to the store for potatoes and an emergency call to the expert: my eldest daughter.

I plead in desperation, "What do I get?" It helps to hop on your toes a little for emphasis. Like you need to go to the bathroom real bad. "It’s ok, Mom," she answers, in the modulated tones of a psychiatric in-take worker. "How about..." and then she goes on to list choices for each person. Choices? Choices? Genius! Not just one, but two ideas! Per person! How does she do it? Clearly ahead of her mother (What else is new?), she knows I’m going to pull this stunt every year, so the girl prepares. Plus, she reads the calendar. I’m working us toward a full manipulative reversal of roles where she will expect to buy all the gifts as well as think of them. I’m hoping this happens by next year so I can concentrate on what I’m really good at: crispy latkes and homemade applesauce. I like the songs, too.

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