They were in the kitchen, laughing in the yellow overhead, ignoring the blackness outside the curtainless windows. Hot drinks, winter, comfort. Lisa watched them -- her parents, happy, having fun. The air smelled like onions and oil. He was teaching her to make latkes. Holding his hand over hers, his arm around her waist, his head tipped back. It was a small, old fashioned kitchen and he wasn’t often in it. If he wanted to keep her mother company (keep me company! she would call to him) he sat in the little breakfast room it opened on to.
Lisa and Kate were sitting there doing their homework. Chanukah was not the kind of thing they got to skip school for. As far as the girls knew, it was private, something that had to do only with their family. The brass candle holder in the center of the table, with its lions and Hebrew letters, was a family heirloom. They filled it with birthday candles and lit all eight before dinner, but no one got to make a wish.
“It’s a very old holiday,” their father explained. “Light in a time of darkness.”
For other holidays, their mother who was so good at making things made decorations and treats. The manger scene she had made, each figure real and dressed perfectly, was already out in the living room, on the table where they put mail. This holiday just had the birthday candles and dinner.
The girls had been in, and at the table because it was too cold and dark to play outside, when their father, home from work, burst into the kitchen holding up a small bag of potatoes. “For the festival!”
Alice was at the counter, bent over a cookbook. She looked up, startled and laughed. Marc was usually quiet at home, as if he was occupied with great and complex thoughts. She took the bag of potatoes from him and he pulled her close for a kiss.
“My love,” he began. “I have a confession. No, no nothing bad --” He regarded her tenderly. “You are in every way a wonderful woman, an amazing woman … The only woman who I could live with …”
It was the potato pancakes. Alice made them by frying little patties of mashed potatoes in her cast iron skillet and they ate them with gravy from the pot roast.
“This year I am going to take responsibility and make the latkes myself!” He poured them each a drink to celebrate.