Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hanukkah with The Levens

Sunday night I headed 20 minutes west of the city to my parent's home in suburban New Jersey for a family Hanukkah celebration. My oldest sister Meredith, husband Jeff and Baby Max came up too from their home in South Jersey to enjoy potato latkas, light menorah candles and spend time with "the fam."

Family time was a huge catalyst in my decision making to move from Los Angeles back to NYC. After spending 4 and a 1/2 years in Arizona going to college and two years in Los Angeles, paying "industry" dues, it was time for me to come back "home" before my family changed and evolved too much without me. My oldest sister was pregnant with my first nephew, my older sister Rachel, was just married and there I was on the other side of the country missing it all.

Now back in NYC for almost a year and a half family time has become a once-a-month, if not more often, occurrence. Usually I head into New Jersey where Mom makes me dinner and I spend the entire day consuming everything that is on-demand cable television and practically eating the entire refrigerator, yes- handles, magnets and all. Plus it's only 20minutes from Manhattan by bus and the suburbs are always a breath of fresh air from the exhaustiveness that is city life. Sometimes though Mom and Dad will come into the city and I'll take them to new restaurants I've read about in the Village Voice or the around-town food blogs. Whether Jersey or the city, it's always nice to see them.

Hanaukkah was just the same- a wonderful, pleasant time. Baby Max, being the newest addition to our family has proved to be a stronger and thicker glue holding my family together. I've become an Uncle, my parents have evolved to grandparents, and my sister and brother-in-law, now parents. Between us all, crawling around the floor, we have this tiny piece of human, coming to life before our eyes and aiding to the stronghold that is The Leven Family. And this is how life works, changes, evolves and morphs- inevitably. Suddenly the lyric's to Fleetwood Mac's Landslide become truer than ever and rips it's way, through flashes, into my soul.
"But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I'm getting older, too..."

My Mother laid out a tremendous Jewish-cultural spread of cold cuts, (turkey, pastrami, roast beef) Rye bread, spicy mustard, pickles and of course potato latkes, cooked in oil, to remind us of the oil the Maccabees used to keep that flame for 8 days straight. We lit the candles on the menorah sat down and enjoyed dinner.

At some point in the evening we exchanged gifts. I bought Baby Max an adorable set of bear paw mittens (like his Uncle) which, like anything else, were covered in drool in moments. My sisters and I chipped in to get Mom and Dad a new set of dishes and aimless houseware supplies they requested and Meredith and Jeff bought me a fresh new Journal. My Mother then handed me a wrapped gift and I tore away at the silver paper covered in Star of David's and dreidels. Inside was a book entitled: "Mama's Boy, Preacher's Son" and when I studied the cover further and read, "A memoir of growing up, coming out, and changing America's Schools" I felt a crack in my heart and my eyes begin to well up. I looked up at my family, my mother and father, and in a tremendous effort tried to utter the words "thank you" without a waver in my voice or a tear desperately wishing to fall. But I couldn't. The "thank you" came out wavered and the tear did fall. Written by Kevin Jennings, The Founder of GLSEN, an organization which sets up gay-straight alliances in American Public Schools, the book proved itself to be more than a gift, more than a holiday surprise, but a token of unyielding support and love from the two people who matter most.

We ended the evening by having dessert. Cheesecake, marble poundcake, coffee and Hanukkah gelt. My brother-in-law and Father retired to watching more football, my mother and sister cleared the table and I sat around watching my family, noticing change, age and growth and watched the Hanukkah candles flicker down into yet, another year.

Happy Hanukkah.

The Family
(L to R: Brother-in-Law Jeff, Oldest Sister Mer, Me, Mom, Dad, Baby Max missing: Older sister Rachel, Brother-in-law Jamison)


Bil Browning said...

Your mom is sooo cute! She looks like a natural holding that baby. :)

Jim said...

What a nice holiday story! Sounds like you have a great family. Thanks for sharing. Happy Hanukkah!

pdxprofessor said...

i'll admit it, i got a little verklempt at this entry. what a sweet holiday moment. thanks for sharing it with us.

ewe said...

How special. You really do look happier in NY however. Hey baby, you single?

bstewart said...

Of all the faith-based, seasonal celebrations I don't observe, Hanukkah's the best. It could be the thing I have for latkas but it's probably the thing I have for Jewish men. Hope yours was seriously fun, E.