Decorations on Yaffo (main drag in town), the mall has hanging dreydels, menorot everywhere and I mean everywhere - whether they're Chabad supported or the municipality, which loves to spend money on menorot when they could spend money on finishing up the damned light rail project for the city of Jerusalem, they are everywhere.
Natan and I had about an hour together yesterday in the evening. We were coming from the Hannukah party at Akiva's school, which was, how can I say, disabled. Picture a pleasant auditorium filled with, for the most part, older retarded people all very excited about the party. Many came in with older, tired and grey looking parents - I pointed out one such pair to my mother, saying, see that mother with her son? That's me in another 20 years. My mother loves when I say such thing, I truthfully find it comforting in an odd way. Anyway, excited student body, Akiva, somewhat confused as to why he's in the school building at 4:30, who are all these people (until he sees 2 staffers and practically leaps into their arms - Sivan and Victoria, who are equally excited to see him) and seemingly confused (we people who live with disabled people are somewhat disabled too) adults setting up the menorah for lighting, the big kids who are supposed to help light, the mike (which never works at all the entire time and generally reverbs in a style remeniscent of The Who), and one guy who's playing Hannukah music on the accordion. Did that sound busy enough in a confused manner? Meanwhile, we have Grandma and Grandpa in tow and Aunt Jessica who are enjoying the pre-game show but G&G who are hungry and already discussing dinner - where should it be, which "khick" (meaning milchik/dairy or fleishig/meat - which is really all about dessert as you can't have ice cream after meat but during hannukah all you see are an endless parade of sufganiyot) they should eat, and kvetching that the show hasn't started yet and what's with the reverb of the mike and can't they turn it off? Eventually, things started and it was lovely, kids singing, kids playing on the electric piano, sort of, and kids yelling and making retarded noises - I felt right at home. There was a sound and light show of sorts that went on too long for the ordinary types, let alone the spec'l needs crowd and we eventually left in a hurry as G&G had had enough and nobody really wanted sufganiyot.
We split up - Ira and Akiva going off with G&G and Jess (who needed to drive my parents car once so that my father would approve her driving for tonight's trip out to my brother's for latkes, finally, and family, food of course, and fun). Ira would like me to add that what really happened is that when G&G got antsy, it was decided that he and Akiva would go home with them and with Jessica, instead of taking a cab home as we had originally decided. He also says that he had no problem with this plan, kvetchy in-laws notwithstanding, but felt that had we (Jess and I) warned him of this change, he would have been happy, instead he was lambasted for being confused and not going along with the plan. Gabe was off playing baseball in a special baseball tournament (they smashed their opponents), so it was just me and Natan. Thank goodness. Ira had to get some work done (after putting Akiva to bed) so that he and Gabe and Natan could stay up late and watch 24, their new obsession. Take deep breaths but it really wasn't so bad.
So there we were in the mall, with all of the other happy Hannukah frolicers. It was a madhouse. Sufganiyot piled high on tables, toys and games to buy on other tables, a group performing at one end of the mall - cute boy singing, wearing what looked like, to Natan and me, a Parks Dept T-shirt and jeans, surrounded by cute girls wearing short skirts (of course) and tanks, dancing in that post-Flashdance style that has permanently affected all teenage girls - animals to pet on the other end (in the mall? but what do I know, I hear that at the Mall of America there's a University and who knows what else) and various special games set up so that children can bother their parents to use their hard earned money to play.
Best moment was still to come. By this point, we had found a reasonably quiet spot on the 3rd floor and were enjoying a meal at Aroma - Iraq sandwich and choco for Natan and salad with rouquefort for me, although I assure you that anything that shreds as neatly as what was decorating my salad cannot possibly be roquefort but it was edible. Besides, I had espresso with which to wash it down. We hear singing and look to see 2 young religous guys who are lighting a Hannukah menorah in a nearby store and are lustily singing Maoz Tzur. Two minutes later, the same scene is being reenacted next door. By the time we finished and moved on to the arts and paper goods store to buy binders and "nylonim", we ourselves were treated to what was becoming a yawn. In they'd run, setting their candles up on the fly, singing, looking around to guage their crowd (ours was an eyebrow raised, "I'm looking at my oil paints and you're in my way, crowd"), and if it was good, sing a few Hannukah songs after the standard candle blessings. I tried to imagine how many times these guys would inflict their holiday bonhomie on the mall crowd that night - 25? 50? more? Natan and I paid and with relief left the mall, found the car and I took him to his rehearsal, sitting and chatting with his director, listening to him sing his ballad with his love interest, while he blushed and grinned a bit.
Happy to all.
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