Always a Little ‘Schmootz in Our Hanukkah

Menorah Blahnik cover

I am not Jewish.  Though it may surprise some of my readers, the name Mindschmootz comes from all the mental plaque that builds up in my brain.  My better three quarters, who is Jewish, refers to all that mindless crap up there as schmutz…as well as the tiny spec of lint on my sweater, the post-hotdog mustard on my face, and any other odd thing attached to my shoe that I track in the house.

I am a Christian.  No, not the Tim Tebow kind.  I don’t strike the overly publicized prayer pose when I score a new pair of sale shoes at Nordstrom.  I’m just your everyday, run of the mill Methodist who wears nothing on my sleeve but the occasional well-tailored jacket.  Among other things, I embrace altruism, criticism, patriotism, and thanks to years of partnered cohabitation, Judaism.  Yes, we are a culturally and religiously blended family.  Last year I wrote about our combined efforts in trimming the best Christmas tree ever, but this year I think it only fitting to wish my Jewish friends the happiest of Hanukkah celebrations over the next eight days.

On Christmas Day, we eat Chinese, but tonight we will sit down to lamb shanks with pears and pistachios, butternut squash latkes with sage and pine nut yogurt, and a pea spaetzle with mint, chives, and tomatoes.  And who will cook this culinary extravaganza?  The Christian, the one who historically ate ham at every religious holiday.  Yes, in the beginning, God (and my mother-in-law) begat a steep learning curve.

My favorite holiday Hanukkah meal was prepared a few years ago by me and my good friend, Chele.  I use the terms “holiday” and “prepared” lightly as Chele was raised Catholic, is now an agnostic, and tends to multiply everything by large whole numbers when converting in the kitchen…which explains my near alcohol poisoning this summer.  Anyway, under the strict supervision (and bottomless wine glass) of the household Hanukkah expert, the runaway former Southern Baptist and the fallen Catholic put together a brisket and fried potato pancakes (it’s all about the oil, and that’s where the Southern part came in handy) that would make you wanna slap your mamma (ok, that, too).  Before we sat down, though, and before the sun set, Randi, put aside her wine glass and picked up a match to light the shamash, the attendant candle that lights the other candles in the menorah.  She recited the blessing over the candles while lighting them.  The blessing is in Hebrew, but you don’t have to be Jewish, or religious for that matter, to appreciate the beauty in the message.  Count your multitudinous gifts and be thankful for each and every one.

I look around the holiday table each year and offer my gratitude for the many miracles reflected in the faces in front of me, and in the faces foremost in my memory.  I am constantly amazed at those who love me not only for what I am humanly allotted, but for eight times more than the expected.  I am truly blessed.  In return, I can only offer you my expressions of thankfulness and my vow to watch over you, to be your advocate, your shamash…so that I might give back some of the abundant light you bring into my life.

Happy Hanukkah!