New Lights, Old Sadness

“Hanerot Halalu Anachnu Madlikim”..

As I felt my mouth sing the words of the Chanukah song that has been familiar to me in all of my 23 years, I felt my eyes sting with the emergence of fresh tears, trying my hardest to keep them inside. I hate when people see my cry, even those closest to me.

Last night, on the first night of Chanukah, I lit candles with my husband, his parents and his brother. This is our first Chanukah together as a married couple and the significance of our approaching one year anniversary and just celebrating a new holiday together in general should have made me smile.

But as I am sitting here writing under the reflection of tonight’s new lights, I do not feel happy. I am stuck in the past, like I often am. Something about the fire’s warm glow and tantalizing dance of the flames makes me hanker for old times, which I will never have again. Holidays, all holidays, are family times. They are family times amongst my friends, extended family, acquaintances and on social media outlets, which makes me think that they are family times in real life for all families.

My family (my biological family) is essentially non-existent. My mother passed away ten years ago. My father and I are no longer speaking after years of mistreatment and manipulation. My only sister is currently living abroad. So that leaves me, stuck in front of the Chanukah candles visualizing the four of us lighting together, smiling and embracing so many years ago.

As I look at the candles, I can almost feel the love and happiness that I know once existed in my home way back when. All of us laughing, dancing to the Jewish music we rarely listened to and smelling the latkes my mother meticulously prepared earlier that day. As I hear my new family, my husband’s family (who I really do love very much) start to sing Hanerot Halalu in a tune that is foreign to my ears, I can only hear my family singing our songs in our tunes, and I cover my eyes to clandestinely wipe my face.

This phenomenon of physically being somewhere with my mind in a completely different universe is not a new thing. However, I wish that I could reclaim my present and acknowledge my new normal, which thankfully is a wonderful one. But something about this holiday makes me feel like I am in a different world, a different time that takes me back to when everything was right and good and whole. Something about the parties, the happiness and the sense of togetherness this holiday brings just makes me wants to be in my own happy past, instead of letting in a new and promising present.

Maybe, when I have a family of my own, things will change. I will be the one imparting light and love onto eager little hearts and minds. I will be the one meticulously preparing the foods, setting the table with special decorations and dancing and singing wholeheartedly with people who will know I love them. Maybe then I’ll be able to look at the Menorah’s flames and smile. Maybe then I will be happy to celebrate this Chanukah and not one that is now far, far away.

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