Monday, December 17, 2012

A Hanukkah Miracle?

Congregation Bet Ha'am, South Portland, Maine
It's not often I come home from an outing with a Hanukkah song stuck in my head in the month of December (or any month, for that matter).

Jingle Bells? Sure. Walking in a Winter Wonderland? Of course. But "Light One Candle," by Peter, Paul and Mary? Never.

And I must say, it was an intensely pleasurable experience. Or would have been if I remembered more of the words.

How did this happen, you ask? I went to a Hanukkah party at the synagogue in South Portland.
There was a service, and social time with crafts and games afterwards.

I have only been to a synagogue a few times in my life, and I can't actually remember any of them.
The list of buildings I do go into is very small, and I was going alone.
Yet, I still decided to go.

My goal is to increase social connections, so any experience that sounds feasible and somewhat interesting I've been trying to do. Fortunately, this place has concrete floors (amazingly) which work well for my chemical sensitivities. That was the main reason I felt comfortable going. I wanted to celebrate Hanukkah, which I hadn't done properly in several years, and I wanted to meet new people. I knew it was on the bus line and I even knew where - only 2 miles down Main St on the corner of the next street, a short ride. The bus times matched up.

And, of course, there was the promise of cookie decorating. The other day I had wanted to decorate SOMETHING, but all I had was food coloring and marshmellows. Apparently, food coloring isn't really the ideal medium for marshmellow decorating, but I tried.

                          My attempt at a marshmellow menorah with food coloring designs

So, since I felt I needed more stimulation in life than playing with food coloring, I decided to go. So I could play with frosting instead. No, just kidding. Although I must admit it did factor into my decision. =)

They had a greeter at the door, who led me to a library area. There were 2 people my age there who were quite friendly. We talked for a few minutes, and then they led me to the sanctuary area for services, as they were leaving and wanted to find someone for me to sit with. Mission accomplished, I was talking with this woman, having no idea what to expect from a service, when I heard and saw the rabbi singing. With a guitar. My mouth dropped open. "He's SINGING!" I said. It is entirely possible that my idea of modern religious services needs updating, but I had no idea that singing was part of it. It was beautiful.

After lighting the menorahs, he continued with the Peter, Paul and Mary song "Light One Candle." I love this song and listen to it almost every day of Hanukkah. I was shocked and ecstatic, actually, because I had been dying to hear this sung live. I sung loudly and enthusiastically. The woman in front of me said "I was wondering how you knew all the words!"

I was silent for most of the remaining service as it was all unfamiliar to me, but kind of nice to hear. The sound of the language was familiar, anyway, even if the words were not.

I met a woman in the social hall in the ensuing social portion of the night who was from the town bordering my hometown and had kids in my former school district. We hit it off with a discussion about that, and she ended up giving me a ride home.

So, all in all, I  think it was a success.

That's after I had gone to the City Hall menorah lighting the previous Saturday (new building for me), an impromptu doctor's visit (something I would never have considered doing in a million years before) that Tuesday, attended a meet-up with a recently made friend and 2 new people on Wednesday.... and spent the evening scoping out (ie *going into buildings that I would not usually set foot in*) possible restaraunts/cafes/coffee shops for possible meetup locations in Portland on Thursday. And oh yeah add the going to a synagogue for the first time I can remember on Friday.

Who is this person? I barely recognize her. But I like her. I hope she can stay and play...

I was pretty beat after going out 5 out of 7 days.... Yes 5 out of 7 days.... which really must be some sort of record for me... but strangely, after one day of rest, I was actually ready to go out again today. I didn't, because the weather is crappy and it got too late, but I could have. (Hey, the light burned for 8 nights for the  Maccabees, I think 4 consecutive nights for me is pretty damn good.)

So I'll just wait for my gelato meet-up with what will hopefully be 4 new people plus my friend M on Tuesday... and maybe the senior luncheon at the synagogue on Wed if they let me go.

Yeah... I hope this lasts. =)


  1. I'm completely in love with this post.
    I have waffled on taking my kids (and me) back to temple, and my longing to do so always arises around this time of year. Looking for something that brings my children in, connecting socially with families who sing the same songs and light the same candles. This year, we had plans for the first time to go to a public menorah lighting at an area temple and then attend their cookie party. It was this past Friday. And then...well, all the things that happened Friday happened and I couldn't bring myself to bring my family anywhere.
    I'm so grateful for this post and for reminding me how lovely and connected we can feel. I'll try to get us there for Passover :)
    I hope the feeling lasts for you too.

  2. Wow Kate, that's wonderful. Mazel tov! I bet you'd love my synagogue too. And, yes, singing is pretty common these days.