Thursday, December 22, 2011

Commemorating miracles

On Wednesday the yarn lady and the noisy girl had a marathon cookie baking session.  For three and a half hours they measured, mixed, rolled and baked cookies.  There was so much going on in the kitchen that Clem decided that she’d watch from a safe distance.  Usually she liked to participate in baking by stalking the ingredients, but with two people bustling around the kitchen she figured she might get stepped on.  The finished products were what mattered, though, and she knew the yarn lady would give her bits of cookies when she was done.  Clem loved cookies.  They were so yummy.  The yarn lady didn’t usually make any rolled cookies, as she said that the countertop was just not the right surface for rolling, but the noisy girl wanted Christmas sugar cookies, so they made them.

The noisy girl didn’t have the stamina for baking that the yarn lady had.  She kept coming into the living room to sit down, “just for a minute”, especially towards the end of the session.  That was when they were doing the rolled cookies, so the yarn lady rolled them, called her in and the noisy girl used the cookie cutters.  She heard them discuss how the cookie cutters had belonged to the yarn lady’s grandmother – a Santa, a crinkly star, a bell and a Christmas tree.  It seemed like a lot of work to Clem.  It was a lot easier to make drop cookies, and they tasted just as good, but the holidays were all about traditions from what she could tell. 

Finally the noisy girl went home and the yarn lady collapsed for a while.  Enough, she said. She plopped on the couch and pulled out a little bag.  It held more of the fleece squares like the ones she’d sewn together a couple days ago.  She’d been mistaken about the yarn lady sewing the last one together wrong.  When she’d finished stitching the big squares together, ugly sides out she’d done some magic to  turn it inside out and voila – she had either a giant potholder or a very small quilt.  She folded it up, putting it on top of the toaster oven and announced, “Peep’s present is done.  One down, who knows how many to go.” 

She sewed a bunch more of them together.  Squares into rows, rows sewed together.  Barmy.  She looked at the clock and announced that it was time to light their menorah.  She took it down from its place on top of the tall cabinet, placed three candles in it (right to left) and then lit them, saying the prayers.  Last night when they’d done this there were only two candles – the high one and one on the end.  The yarn lady explained to Clem that since it was the second night of Hanukkah they lit two candles, in addition to the shamash. 

Last night the yarn lady had told Clem the story behind Hanukkah as they watched the candles burn.  Clem liked stories where the undercat prevailed, and the story of the Maccabees was certainly one of those.  There should have been no chance that they would beat the Egyptians, but they did.  And the part about the one little bit of oil that burned for eight days – that was truly a miracle.  As Clem watched the candles burn down she thought about how big a candle would need to be to burn for eight days.  Absolutely huge.  In the half hour or so that the yarn lady left the candles lit they burned down quite a bit. 

Tonight they sat and thought quiet thoughts as they watched the candles burn.  Clem realized that it wasn’t the time to ask the yarn lady to play yarnballs, so she sat near the menorah, transfixed by the flames.  Being a kitten, though, her curiosity got the best of her, and she reached out with one paw to see what it felt like. Oh, hot, hot, hot!  She sat back and licked her paw a bit.  It wasn’t really burned, just a little uncomfortable.  The yarn lady gave Clem the ‘look’ and carefully picked up the menorah and put it on top of the tall cabinet where Clem couldn’t reach it, where it remained until she put out the candles.  As she extinguished them she wondered aloud to Clem why only Jewish people celebrated this holiday.  If it hadn’t been for the Maccabees, Jesus’ ministry might not have been the same – the Egyptians might have stopped the Jews from gathering at all.  God had worked it all out just right, and should be acknowledged for that. 

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