I am old.  It is a fact. I am neither boasting nor lamenting the fact. Age has made me more aware and appreciative of the brain’s fantastic file-keeping, its storage of memories of people and experiences from ages ago that are released by various stimuli.  

My brain has released memories connected to Hanukkah for years as Hanukkah approaches or is mentioned. In 2020 Hanukkah begins the evening of Dec. 10 and is celebrated through the 18th. Certain Hanukkah-related memories come forth.

As a teenager (just a few years ago, right?), I attended a regional high school. The school took in students from my hometown and the surrounding smaller towns and farmland. One of my high-school girlfriends/classmates lived out of town on a farm. She was Jewish. She had lost her mother during the war (the Holocaust) and essentially lost an older sister who had become mentally ill.  

My friend was left with the responsibility of preparing the meals for the holidays.  

Now I am not proud of what I am about to tell you, but please remember that this was my friend whom I loved dearly and for whom I had compassion. 

My friend would drive into town, pick me up and take me to her house. I sat at the kitchen table as she prepared foods for the holiday while her father was in the house.  

As soon as her father went out of the house, I would help my friend prepare foods. When we saw her father coming back to the house, I would hurry back to my seat at the table. My friend and I knew that because I was not Jewish that I was not supposed to prepare the (kosher) foods her father expected and desired. 

As I said, the approach or mention of Hanukkah lets my brain go into its files and remember my friend.  It also lets me remember how many, many years ago Jewish neighbors invited my elementary-school-aged daughters to share the lighting of the menorah candles and the exchange of gifts each night during Hanukkah. This was an enriching experience for them as far as being mindful of the holiday traditions of others.

I greatly appreciate the brain’s retention of memories, especially pleasant ones. However, memories in general provide a continuum/record of one’s life.

“…Shadows of days that are gone

Dreams of the old days revealing…” 

(from “Memories,” music by Egbert Van Alstyne and lyrics by Gus Kahn, published in 1915)