Bubbie's birthday, the 5th night of Hanukah

This is the fifth night of Hanukah, which is my grandmother’s birthday.

We called her Bubbie (Yiddish for Grandmother).

I never knew what her birthday was on the Roman calendar.  We always knew it as the 5th night of Hanukah.

She was born in Riga, Latavia, in 1890, which would make her 120 years old today.  She left this world at the age of 97, in 1987.

She had a rebellious nature and, at the age of 15, participated in the failed Russian Revolution of 1905.

Participating in a failed revolution was a good way to wind up in prison — so her father urged her to leave the country after this event — which she did.

Apparently she was in too big of a hurry to find out her birthday.  Or, perhaps observing it on the fifth night of Hanukah was good enough.  It certainly maintained her ties with her Jewish identity (as if there were any question about that).

Her father was a rabbi, and they lived on the top floor of an apartment building.  I’ve seen the building myself, from the street — and my memory tells me it was about six stories high.


After leaving Riga, she waited a couple of years in Copenhagen, her safe haven.  She was waiting for her brother to save the money for her travel to the United States.  Her brother — two years older and  also a revolutionary — immigrated first.

She spoke fondly of Copenhagen.  She said the language was easy to learn and she had good friends and a good time there.  Of course, those are fun years — between the ages of 15 and 17 (and no parents!) — although it’s hard for me to imagine her being that age.

When she came to the U.S.A., she spent time in Rochester, before somehow making her way south and eventually to North Carolina.

She always made a face when she said “Rochester.”

“So cold,” she said.

Copenhagen and Riga are not considered warm climates, but she said they were toasty compared to Rochester.

She arrived here in Salisbury in the 30’s.  Before that, she kept a shop in Marion, VA.  Before that, Morganton, NC.  Before that — I don’t know.  That pre-dates my mother’s birth, so I never heard anything about it.  I doubt they were lost years for her, but they’re a little lost to me.

Is Hanuka like a Jewish Christmas?  No!  It’s Hanuka.  Although it’s an important holiday that celebrates religious freedom, it’s not as central to the Jewish religion as Christmas is to Christianity.  And the Hanuka gift giving is really just an American add-on, an attempt by American Jewish parents to console their children while denying them much of the joy of Christmas.

But it’s a beautiful celebration that includes eight nights, games, fried food, the lighting of candles, chocolate coins (if you’re lucky), and a theme that expresses gratitude for freedom.

And Bubbie’s birthday.

There’s nothing like a grandmother.  Like almost everybody’s grandmother, mine was terribly wise and sweet, and a real inspiration.  Happy birthday, Bubbie.

Christmas notes '09 (navel gazing, as usual)

A few notes about Christmas here at the Post house.

First of all, I’m Jewish — so Christmas is a cultural event that includes some awesome parties, visits with old friends, a few too many perhaps (a few nights too many), and a stint volunteering at the homeless shelter.

We send cards but I’m not much of a gift exchanger and certainly don’t have a religious connection to the holiday.

We also keep Hanukah in perspective.  I guess I’m sort of a secular humanist/Taoist/Jew.

My wife’s parents always send gifts, though.  And my friend Robert Jones always makes merry with gifts.  When the kids were young we had some fun playing Santa.

This year is very quiet.  Our children are far away.  Sarah is in Alaska, where she lives.  Aaron is with his girlfriend’s family, in Atlanta.  Emma is with her aunt and uncle, on a cruise in Mexico.

Normally, I don’t eat meat, but had some turkey on Thanksgiving and rather enjoyed it.  Thus, my wife, Alicia, is baking a small turkey today, with stuffing — and I’ll eat some of it.

I’ll also take some of this feast to my Mom.  She’s not doing well.  The Alzheimer’s has progressed and she’s also having some physical problems.  She’s fallen down a couple of times in the past two weeks.  I’ll visit her in a few minutes — as soon as I post this blog — and then spend some more time with her tonight, for dinner.

Sometime today, I’ll schedule in some yoga, meditation, and some walking.

Because it’s raining — hard — I may be walking here in the house, around the coffee table.  Normally, in weather like this, I would go to the mall, or even Walmart.  But it’s Christmas and they’re closed.

I’ve also got a couple of movies I want to see over the next couple of days, while things are quiet and peace reigns.

Like most Americans, I’m a big movie watcher, and even a sort of filmmaker.  But it’s been such a full year and months since I’ve seen any movie at all.  I’m going to watch Sean Penn’s ‘Milk,’ and Wayne Dyer’s ‘The Shift,” (a birthday present from daughter Sarah).

The usual traditions:  Last night, a few drinks at Robert’s house.  Tonight, a party and Darryl and Tammie’s house.  Tomorrow night, working at the homeless shelter, followed by a party at Lee’s house.  Sunday night, party at Robert’s house.  For me, these parties special.  I’ve had a busy year and I love the chance to relax and party and visit with friends.

Yesterday, I had a hankering for bar-b-cue.  I got some sauce (they call it “dip”) at Richard’s Bar-B-Cue.  Got some red slaw at McComb’s in Faith, NC.  Substituted white albacore tuna for the pork — and made a modified Salisbury style bar-b-cue sandwich, with sourdough bread.  It was excellent.

I’m working on some exciting New Year’s resolutions.  Last year, I made a resolutions to walk 10k steps per day in 2009.  I’ll probably keep this one and add to it.  My resolutions will be health related.  I’ll make a yoga goal because I was so inconsistent this year.  And I might make a diet goal.  Not to lose weight.  I never keep those.  But to eat a three servings of vegetables a day, take some vitamins, eat more and better salads — something like that.  Just trying to stay alive and healthy another year.

So there’s a bit of navel gazing for this Christmas.