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Silent Chanukah Song

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Updated April 04, 2009

The holidays can be difficult for people with hearing loss when they are around hearing family members. Here are some examples of how deaf people cope with family holidays from both personal and others' experiences:
  • Hire an interpreter and bring the interpreter along
  • Go off quietly and read a book
  • Limit themselves to one-on-one conversations if they can manage those
  • Limit themselves to writing back and forth in one-on-one conversations
  • Avoid going to family gatherings
  • Work on cooperative activities with hearing family members that may not require much talking, such as cooking
  • Focus on physical activities that may not require talking, such as playing video games
  • Join the family in doing holiday related activities that may not require talking (going out to look at a Christmas tree or holiday displays, for example)

A Chanukah Story

In this fictional story by Marc L. Brown, an About.com user, a deaf 12-year-old named Mara has recently lost her mother, and both she and her father are struggling to cope. Mara is faced with the challenge of helping her father overcome his grief and enjoy the holiday, without any words spoken.

This is just one of several stories, poems, and autobiographies in the Literary Corner at About.com Deafness. The Literary Corner was set up to encourage deaf and hard of hearing people, including deaf students, to write creatively. In addition to the Literary Corner, I have written about my own experiences with family holidays while growing up.

Mara’s father bore the look of a man who had suffered more than he could endure. Since her mother had been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, declined rapidly, and died weeks later, the whole saga could be monitored in his shrinking presence.

He had been a hardy man, treating Mara’s deafness as an alternate way of looking at the world. Both of her parents had helped to nurture her other skills and senses to enrich her life. She had developed a keen understanding of everything she observed. At age 12 she was accustomed to the lack of sound but not the utter silence of the past few months. She had lost her mother, and her father was slipping away.

Last year at Chanukah, decorations made the house look festive and the smells of good things to eat scented the air. Dreidel-shaped cookies and potato latkes with homemade applesauce were among the special holiday treats that Mom seemed to effortlessly materialize.

This year, Mara needed a Chanukah miracle and she did not know from where it might come. The dark days of December were swallowing her family in gloom and the Festival of Lights could not come soon enough.

She found the Chanukah Box in her mother’s closet, opening it with the special reverence of something last touched by a departed loved one. Mara became less tentative. Realizing it would do no good as a memorial, she tore into the box to see what was there. On top, she discovered the silver Menorah and the box of blue and white twisted candles Aunt Elena had brought back from Israel. Mom had been saving those candles for a special occasion, and Mara was hoping this would be it.

She set out the menorah and placed a candle in the top candle holder above the Jewish star to be the Shamos, which is used to light the other candles, and placed another for the first of the 8 nights.

When her father returned from work, he saw the menorah and his eyes filled with tears. He fled to his room without a backward glance, and did not emerge.

As the sun set, Mara lit the candles and stared into their flickering light. Mesmerized, she saw her mother in the flames, decorating the house for the holiday. Intent on learning everything she could, Mara saw exactly how each decoration was to come from its place in the Chanukah box to be unwrapped and displayed.

The next day, she followed every move she had seen unfold in the candle flame, giving special attention to the paper chains she and Mom had made together when she was in kindergarten. Next, she unfurled the banners that proclaimed "Happy Chanukah," and placed a fierce and heroic Judah Macabee poster over the hearth. She stopped to survey the results, and the house looked exactly as the vision in the flame and also felt very familiar. She placed the candles in the menorah for the second night.

Her father came home and looked around. Overwhelmed, he escaped to his room once again. Mara waited for a bit hoping Dad might reappear and then lit the candles for the second night. The tiny flames drew her in and soon she saw Mom playing dreidel with her.

They played for chocolate filled coins, and she saw Mom distinctly point out the Hebrew letters on each of the 4 sides of the dreidel. Nes Gadol Haya Sham, meaning a great miracle happened there. The dreidel spun like a top, but had square sides and depending on which side was facing up, coins were won or lost. Then, as the candle flames began to die, Mom showed Mara her favorite trick, how to spin the dreidel upside down on its handle with a flick of the wrist and a snap of the fingers.

The next day, Mara found the dreidel in the Chanukah box. On her way home from school, she stopped at the temple gift shop. She purchased a little bag of Chanukah gelt, the gold foil covered chocolate coins, and hurried home.

She placed the candles in the menorah for the third night. This time when her father came in, she ran to him and took his coat. Pulling him by the hand to where the menorah sat on the kitchen table, Mara lit the Shamos and stuck it in his hand to light the other three candles. He shook a little, but managed to get them lit. She could see his lips move a little as he reflexively chanted the prayers for the lighting of the candles. As soon as he replaced the Shamos in the menorah, she sat him down at the table and poured out the bag with the chocolate gelt.

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