Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holy Days

We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas because Verna is Catholic and I am Jewish. When I told Maya we were going to a Hanukkah party and were going to eat latkes (potato panckaes) and light the menorah, she said, "Bubbie Brayna."

Those two words shed for me nearly over-powering light into the mind of a toddler. How do their cerebral synapses fire so brightly and quickly?

I'd read her the book Chanukkah Guest (by Eric Kimmel ), in which Bubbie Brayna, hard of hearing and failing sight, mistakes a lumbering bear in the forest for the village rabbi and prepares a holiday feast for him, a few times last week, and now she connected our Hanukkah celebration with the story.

Or she'd say "Bubbie China" because it sounds just like Brayna in her 3-year-old mind. After that she 'd say, "Luca say that."

Luca is her friend, about 2 1/2, who lives just down the street. Maya was there recently when he picked up the telephone. His mother asked, "Luca, who are you calling?"

"China," he said.

So Maya remembered the incident and connected it to Bubbie Brayna and the latkes and the menorah. And all of that got me thinking how uncluttered a child's mind is, and how much room there is for them to make those amazing connections. Children don't have to and shouldn't have to worry about paying the mortgage, having money for holiday gifts, dealing with grief and loss, job insecurity, clogged highway traffic, or gorging on Christmas cookies.

Most kids just live in the moment. Whenever Maya hears the words 'party', she automatically responds, "Cake." Now, when she hears latkes and menorah, it's "Bubbie Brayna."

Their minds are uncluttered, one of Miguel's preschool teachers likened it to living in the pink soup (and she said we must, as parents, ensure they are in that soup for a long time), but that doesn't mean we should have high expectations about what those beautiful minds can handle.

Maya has already perfected the well-worn adolescent response of "I don't know" to many of my queries. It's not that she doesn't know, I think, but that she is merely saying, "I am so in the present, dad, give me a break with your incessant need to know."

So we lit the menorah last night and Maya connected that with birthdays. We sang the blessings and she promptly blew out the candles.

"Bubbie Brayna!"

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