There is so much to love about Chanukah. The continuous celebratory atmosphere, the way the candles look reflected back at us through our big living room window, the expression of joy and power on my kids’ faces as they get their first taste of pyromania. I love that it is 8 nights long, and while I recognize that there are historical and esoteric reasons for the length of the holiday, I take it as tacit acknowledgement from on High that sometimes it takes 8 nights to get it right- the candles, the singing, the dreidle, the latkes, the spirituality, minus the fighting over whose Chanukiyah is taller or whose dreidle could fit farther up whose nose.
And of course the presents. We do not go all out for Chanukah. Luckily there tends to be enough culinary treats and spontaneous fun-having that we often get away with small surprises here and there (supplemented heavily with gifts from grandparents).
Truth is I am not a great gift giver. I don’t like being bound by birthdays or holidays for gift exchange. I much prefer gifts for no reason, gifts of the I-saw-this-and-thought-of-you-immediately variety. None the less, once a year, I try to find one great, meaningful gift for my husband. I give it to him either on his birthday or on Chanukah, and my problem is that his birthday passed with no good ideas of what to get him and Chanukah is upon us and I am still without a clue.
My trouble is that I peaked last year. We’d been living in our house for 7 years and had never used the fireplace. My great gift idea was to have the chimney inspected and cleaned, purchase firewood, and surprise him on the first night of Chanukah with a roaring conflagration (pyromania appears to be genetic). So come last October I welcomed the chimney sweep into my home (I can actually see you picturing Dick van Dyke). He inspected and cleaned, and promptly handed me a list of $1,500 worth of work that needed to be done. Work, he explained, that would not only allow us to have a fire in the fireplace, but that would actually keep the entire chimney from detaching from the house.
I was left with a quandary. Secretly spend this large amount of money so I can carry on with my covert operation? Or spill the beans now so I can include my husband in the decisions about getting a second quote, which company to go with, and whether the house might just look better without the chimney. I couldn’t bear the personal responsibility and I caved, surprising him with an early and very expensive Chanukah bill. Ultimately the work was done, the wood was bought, and the year was full of fire. My gift rocked.
My story makes me think of those car commercials one starts seeing every December. The ones where one spouse presents the other with a brand new, high end SUV with a giant bow on it, and the receiving spouse is shocked and delighted. The recipient has not realized that the giver has been pouring over car websites for the past month. S/he did not observe the giver scrimping and saving to come up with the cash, nor did s/he did become curious when the giver started pulling friends aside at gatherings to discuss the pros and cons of leasing versus buying. He/she didn’t notice the recently googled searches of ‘Where can I buy a giant bow?’
Go ahead and kiss each other in the lightly falling snow, I say. You seem to be a bit out of sync with each other. Your money may have been better spent in couple’s counseling. Or perhaps I am just jealous because I just checked the recent search history on our home computer and came up with nothing expensive.
The moral of the story is that last year I spend thousands of dollars on the perfect Chanukah present for my husband. I appreciated his gift to me, but let’s just say his total came in far, far below. Who amongst us thinks I am exempt this year?