“Did you hear that?” I asked my girls as they ate dinosaur chicken nuggets and juice boxes for dinner.
Their little faces dropped. “What was it?”
“I heard something upstairs, maybe in your bedroom.” Their eyes widened as they searched my face to see whether they should be happy or scared.
“Maybe it was the Hanukkah Bunny?” This was a new concept to them. And to me.
“Go check. See if he left something.”
My oldest, 5 at the time, ran upstairs. A squeal followed.
“Mommy, it’s the Barbie I wanted.” She came back down, shaking with excitement.
“How did the Hanukkah Bunny know?” she asked.
“I guess he knows these kinds of things.”
“How did he get up there?” my little one asked.
After much discussion about the architecture of our house and possible Hanukkah bunny entrances, we determined that we must have left the front door open. While eating dinner, the bunny came in and hopped up the stairs. His escape route must have been the window.
It was, by far, one of my top 10 parenting conversations.
And then I felt guilty. Was this bad parenting to introduce a new character from the land of wonder into their lives? I was raised with Santa Claus coming down the chimney and delivering my Barbie, Ken and his car. One year, I cried tears of joy to see the shiny Barbie Styling Head on top of the Playhouse ironing board.
When I married, I agreed with my husband that we would follow his family’s Jewish tradition of Hanukkah. Christmas would be celebrated only at my parent’s house in Kentucky.
Somehow though, Hanukkah’s miracle of light and oil-burning lamp wasn’t getting through to the younger crowd in our household. Passover followed with a wonderful dinner but no baskets overflowing with chocolate and toys.
Soon after, I learned that the Easter Bunny had a Jewish relative, the Hanukkah Bunny. He was little enough to sneak in through a cracked window, strong enough to carry toys up the stairs.
When my husband came home, the girls jumped up and down with excitement.
“The Hanukkah Bunny?” he asked.
“Yes,” I nodded heavily. “He just arrived from Israel.” Nod. Nod. Nod.
Now, don’t worry. I can easily criticize myself and downgrade my parenting stock to pure liquidation. Seriously, who am I to take a holiday that celebrates life and the human spirit and morph it into a magical Barbie? To mix consumerism with a tradition thousands of years old?
Obviously, a confused Mom.
But never fear. The playground rights all wrongs. Once the Hanukkah Bunny hit the swing set crowd, he began to lose credibility.
“Mommy, Sam is Jewish and they don’t have a Hanukkah Bunny visit them.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Maybe they need to write him a letter,” I answered. (‘Write a letter’ is one of my top 10 retorts as a parent.)
“But he’d never even heard of him.”
“That’s too bad. What do you think he’ll bring tonight?”
“He always knows the perfect thing to bring.” He even knew what I need-to see magical twinkle in my children’s eyes.
The next year we moved and the Hanukkah Bunny lost our address. I explained to the girls that he had other children to hop for.
Christmas in Kentucky soon became enough magic in our lives. This year though, Santa has turned over the present shopping to me.
Hopefully, he and the Hanukkah Bunny are having a hot toddy somewhere, creating a holiday magic of their own.
Local parent Christine Fugate teaches film making at Chapman University.