It’s that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, when the blessed holiday of Hanukkah falls on the same day as Thanksgiving. And, like all good secular, suburban, last-minute Sara(h)s, I failed to delight in the sacrament.
I’ll blame it on circumstance – I just couldn’t find a menorah I liked enough, latkes require so much preparation, the Jewish deli down the block fed me lots of bagels and lox spread and matzo ball soup – but mostly I just couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to do to recognize the holiday.
I’m in that age bracket where my sense of identity is constantly in flux, and spending another holiday away from home, newly domesticated, I’m forced to figure out which old traditions to adopt and which new ones to attempt. I haven’t been home to Atlanta in nearly two years, and I’ve been removed from the Keevan family Hanukkah rhythm for even longer, having spent a couple winters prior in San Francisco and Chicago. It’s a tradition I’d grown accustomed to – my mother’d make a big meal (usually spaghetti or pot roasts, my home-cooked Foom favorites), we’d settle in for some hot chocolate, light up the menorah and recite our version of the Hanukkah prayer.
To call it fondness is an understatement. I define my Jewish self based on those interactions at home: by my mother’s gentle and halfhearted adherence to spirituality, by the laughter, by the food I sometimes achingly crave, by the wax-stained countertops. And without the expectation of that celebration, I’m kind of lost.
B is a good sport; he tagged along on my hunt for a menorah and was supportive when I found the selections at multiple stores to be without. He tolerated my lighting of our 3-wick Bath & Body Works winter candle as I butchered the Keevan-version of the Hebrew prayer. And he partook in a breakfast or three of bagels and lox spread (though I think that was something he was happy to do). But it’s not the Hanukkah I’d so come to love.
It’s strange to feel even further removed from Judaism than I did in my youth. I’d drifted in and out of Jewish consciousness for most of college, vacillating between hyper-Heeb and apathetic agnostic. Religion didn’t need to be a part of my life once I left, as my core friendship groups weren’t centered around the campus Hillel. I abstained from High Holidays, regularly mixed milk with meat, ate bacon – yummy, yummy bacon. But I still felt Jew-ish.
I feel like the last bits of my Jewish identity are ebbing away to form something much more nebulous. I still get pangs of Jewish pride, but I feel that sense of self is being even more readily challenged. I don’t know who I am or, really, what I believe in. Not partaking in Thanksgivukkah felt, ultimately, like a loss. I couldn’t stand to settle for something less than perfection, and perhaps that was because I wasn’t yet ready to commit.
This has been a year of pretty serious commitment, marked by a series of firsts: My first big-girl job, my first apartment, my first steady relationship*. It’s certainly daunting, and I think I’m suffering from an existential crisis. Is it possible I’m enduring that ridiculous quarter-life crisis Buzzfeed seems so fixated on? Or is it as simple as knowing I don’t know anything about myself? Mostly, I think I’m just frightened to commit to something so intangible – jobs can be changed, homes can be relocated, boyfriends can be replaced, but beliefs are supposed to be more unrelenting. And I’m not sure what I believe in.
I do, however, believe in being grateful for the opportunities and experiences that shape us, so I can take a moment to celebrate that spirit of Thanksgiving. It’s been a huge year for me, and I have so very much to be grateful for. I’m too often one for schmaltz, so I will try and keep it short n’ simple this time around. Here’s what I am thankful for:
- Employment. I realize I am exceptionally lucky to be gainfully employed in my career field. I stumbled into a journalism job, and it allows me to write everyday. Self-expression, y’all. I also have the unique pleasure of serving and occasionally managing in a delightful little restaurant with people I can stand to be around. Can’t ask for much more.
- Family. I couldn’t have expected two years ago, hell, even last year, that this would make my list, but I’ve been changing my tune as of late. Between a relationship with my family that can only be described as “under construction” and a relationship with B’s family that can be categorized as “complicated,” family remains a strange conceit. But it’s wonderful to have a place to go to for holidays, to spend Sunday night spaghetti dinners with, to call for rides home and to begin to understand familial love again.
- The Bear. Of all the things to be thankful for, this guy, he tops my list. I tell him sometimes that he saved my life, and while it’s trite, it’s also true. I don’t want to air all of our lovey-doviness on this forum, but suffice to say, I love him.
- Freedom and flexibility. My full-time j-gig allows me to work with a great deal of flexibility, both from home and with a great deal of say over content. I’m awful young to have that sort of agency, and I’m creating opportunities to write about the things I’m passionate about, even if it’s not from the most ideal perspective.
- Friendship. The opportunities for friendship lessen as I grow older, so the ones I still get are nice reprieves. Trivia Tuesday, Hangouts with Hanna and the like remind me of all the good in the world.
- The Barenaked Ladies. Because.
- Coca Cola. Some things never change.
- Financial freedom. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, wealthy. But I finally make enough to live comfortably within my means. And that’s enough for now.
- The future. And the fact that I still have one.
Finally, I am thankful to you, the reader, the friend, the World Wide Web visitor. A long post, I know, and great kudos to you if you read ’til the end. If you did, please also check out this story I wrote for the magazine on the proliferation of Molly. I’ll owe you one. And a Keevan always repays her debts.
Happy Thanksgiving, folks, and happy Hanukkah to you. Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season.
*I couldn’t find quite the adjective to use here. For any longtime readers, you may recall I was in a serious relationship for the great majority of college, and the rest was marred by the devastation I felt after its demise. I consider this one different in a lot of ways, not the least of which that this is exceedingly healthier, happier and generally more mature.