My mother is very happy because my cousin from Chicago is coming to visit. I'm happy too because when my daughter and my cousin's daughter met two and a half years ago, they had an almost surreal connection. They were instant best friends. And, from the second they met, my daughter could not rest knowing that my cousin's daughter was somewhere in the world and not with her, so she stalked her all over Phoenix - when they stayed with my mother, when they stayed with my sister, when they did anything that wasn't with us. Finally, exhausted from all this stalking, I drove over to my sister's house and picked them up. This time it's mandatory. They'll be staying with us.
So my mother's happy. Cousin and her daughter are coming. Cousin's staying with me. My house is a mile from her house. She has the gate opener for my neighborhood gate and a key to my house so she can barge in any time. Everything is perfect.
But then she says, "I told your cousin that you'll be having a big Hanukkah party for the family."
Okay, this is true. I'm in charge of Hanukkah for our family, probably because, after 36 years in Arizona, I'm just about the only one in the family who doesn't have a Christmas tree. Admittedly, I'm the big Jewish fanatic in the family. I own about 100 menorahs, have quite a dreidel collection. What other people do for Christmas, I do for Hanukkah.
But I smell a rat. Hanukkah is a little early this year. I believe Cousin's coming after it ends.
I say, "Ma, when's she coming?"
"I don't know. I think December 19th. The week before Christmas."
My mother, the Holocaust Survivor, dates everything by Christmas.
"But Ma, the last day of Hanukkah is the 19th, so the last candle is the 18th."
"Who cares how many days Hanukkah has? Eight shmeight! Why can't it be closer to Christmas this year?"
Does she think I can find a ten-armed menorah?
"Ma, I'm not moving Hanukkah."
"You think you're so Orthodox! I'll tell you what's so Orthodox - when the Nazis killed everyone in my town."
Since I grew up with my mother throwing the Holocaust at my head every morning, noon, and night, this certainly isn't going to sway me. We've been through this before in my family, with everyone in my family wanting to move Hanukkah onto the more convenient Christmas - everyone has the day off anyway! - or moving Passover to Easter, or combining the two.
I ignore her invocation of the Holocaust. I say, "Look, I'll have the party on the last day if you want, but I'm not moving the holiday."
And, faced with my implacable will - I'm the Jewish mother, she's the reluctant daughter - she gives in, pulls out the calendar and makes note of the date.