This Friday, before the mob descended upon us for our annual Momma d’Elisson Memorial Chanukah Dinner, we fired up our Chanukah lights and then lit the traditional two candles for the Sabbath.
We use an oil menorah these days. There is something about the soft, warm light from an olive oil lamp that transcends the ordinary. It’s also easier to clean than those damnable drippy candles.
As SWMBO lit that first lamp, a distinctive, almost delicate aroma composed partly of burning olive oil, partly of match-sulfur, hung in the air. And it triggered a sense memory deep in my Reptilian Hind-Brain that had my mind drifting through an ocean of Chanukah past.
There are two senses that can work that sort of magic on me more effectively than any others: hearing and smell.
[I hear Jethro Tull’s “A New Day Yesterday” or “With You There To Help Me,” and I am instantly transported back to my freshman tear in college. I smell the paraffinic pong of a just-lit candle, and I am a grade-school lad once again, watching with anticipation as my parents kindle the lights of Chanukah.]
Later that evening, as I bit into a crisp potato pancake, steaming hot and still glistening with oil, that sense memory struck me again. This time, it took me back to my grandmother’s kitchen, that magical place whence came the most savory roast chicken, the most delicate chicken soup with kreplach.
To this day, the memory of my grandmother’s meatloaf brings an appreciative smile to my lips - this, despite the fact that I am not normally a Meatloaf Fan.
But as I stood there in reverential reverie, it occurred to me that SWMBO’s latkes are every bit as good as my grandmother’s were. Maybe even better.
Memories are fine, but we live in the present. And I am blessed to have a life that exceeds my memories.
Now: Where the hell are the rest of those latkes?