I don’t usually write fiction,
but I was moved to write this short story for my newsletter, PIPS NEWS,
based on the experience of some friends of mine.
See what you think about my foray into fiction writing.
Dina was confused. This was the fifth Hanukkah since her parents’ divorce, and the first one since her father had remarried a gentile. It was a difficult year for her. Even though she was an adult and lived in her own apartment, she had always hoped that someday her parents would get back together. That didn’t happen, though. When she heard her father was dating someone, she assumed he must have met a nice Jewish woman. It came as a shock that her father, the same man who had always taken her to Hebrew school and Temple, had married Noelle, a Christian woman.
When her father invited her to celebrate the second night of Hanukkah at his new home, she was astonished to see a Christmas tree in the living room, and Christmas wreaths, garlands, and decorations everywhere. There was a Santa Claus on a shelf surrounded by red and green candles, and a nativity set on the mantle. Although she saw that her father had placed a small menorah, dreidel, chocolate gelt, and a plate of freshly made latkes on the table, there were no signs of Hanukkah anywhere else in the house. She was so upset she could hardly speak.
“What’s wrong?” her father asked. At first, she didn’t say anything, she just felt a hot rage rising inside of her. Then it all came out in a rush of loud, angry words.
“Who are you? You’re not my father! My father is a Jew!”
“Of course I’m your father, and you know I’m a Jew. What are you saying?”
“When I was growing up we always had blue and silver Hanukkah decorations all over the house, not just one tiny piece of Hanukkah in a huge mess of a Christmas house. Look at where you’re living now! Christmas everywhere!” She saw a look of confusion cross his face as he looked around the room, and it only made her more furious. “Liar! Were you lying when you lived with us and we had Hanukkah decorations, or are you lying now? I can’t stand lies or liars!”
Dina’s father gave her some time to calm down. When she was ready, he sat near her and began talking gently.
“When your mother and I were married, when you were growing up, who decorated the house for Hanukkah?”
“Mom always did that. She loved decorating and preparing for the Festival of Lights.”
“That’s right, your mother was the one to decorate the house. Now, I am married to Noelle. She loves to decorate her home for Christmas just as much as your mother loves decorating for Hanukkah.”
“But this is your house, too! You have a right to be Jewish in your own home! I don’t understand how you can tolerate this, it’s so different!”
“It is different, I know. Things change. I remember even when you were a tiny girl, it was never easy for you to get used to changes.” He smiled at her. “But you always made me proud when you learned new things.” Her father shook his head slowly as he looked around the rooms. “Maybe the world is changing so that men do more of the decorating, but you know I’m an old-fashioned guy. I don’t tell my wife how to decorate the house. Not when you were a child, and not now. But Noelle knew how important it was for me to celebrate with you this year. She went out and bought this menorah and dreidel and gelt, and she learned how to make latkes.”
“She did this?” Dina looked at the table set with silver and blue, in the middle of a house full of red and green baubles and bows. “Noelle made latkes?”
“She made them for us, and then she went to her sister’s house to give us some time alone, because she knows how important our traditions are.” He gestured toward the towering Christmas tree. “Her traditions are important to her, too. I would never ask her to give up her celebrations for mine. We are adding, not subtracting.”
Dina had always loved math, and adding numbers mentally could usually calm her down. She suddenly got a visual image in her head of all of the Hanukkah candles and all the Christmas candles being added together, joining to make a warm glow that grew brighter and brighter as more candles were added. The more she thought about adding, the more peace she felt about her father’s new, different life.
“Dad, I’m sorry I called you a liar. I know you’re a good Jew, and you don’t lie. Please tell Noelle thank you for helping make Hanukkah for us.”
“Of course. And now let’s eat these latkes, and see how she did for her first attempt!”
“If they’re terrible, I can give her mom’s recipe before next year.” Dina smiled as her dad gave her a hug and handed her a plate of latkes.
They turned out to be pretty good, after all.
So, what do you think?
Have you ever had an experience like this?
How did you handle it?
I’m always looking to include fiction or nonfiction pieces by autistic writers in PIPS NEWS,
so please email me if you want to write something to be included in my newsletter.
Thanks, and Happy Holidays