This isn’t my earliest Chanukah memory, but it’s always the first that comes to mind.
In the house I grew up in, where my parents still live, the dining room was originally a narrow room barely larger than the rectangular table (seats eight, if you squish up). What saved us from growing up claustrophobic were the identically-sized kitchen, separated from the dining room by a narrow counter (not quite an island. An islet, perhaps. Or a sandbar) and a bay window.
crossposted over there
There were five panes in that window, narrowly angled about a small ledge. A plant or two would fit there, but there wasn’t quite enough room for a girl with a book. And it would have been a wonderfully storybook place to read in the afternoon, looking out at the orchard, watching the sunset… and yet when now that it’s been replaced with a window with a deeper ledge (room enough for a woman, book, cup of tea, and and a nephew or two), I miss the old window.
There was also a buffet in that room, on the wall opposite the window. Barely enough room to squeeze by even if whoever was sitting on that side of the table scrunched in, but it worked. Most of the year Mom kept flowers there (as well as on the table, and any other flat surface she might find wanting), but at Chanukah that’s where the menorahs went. We always had more than one. Might have been a collector’s (or accumulator’s) urge, might have been a way to keep the kids from fighting over who got to light the candles. Not that there wasn’t any bickering over who got to light which. But the candles got lit before dinner, and I got to sit with my back to the window watching them while we ate.
And then dinner would be over and we could turn the lights down. And the lights from those menorahs would reflect in the windows against the darkness outside — and then those reflections would reflect again, as the angled panes mirrored each other — and again…
Five panes of glass. Five menorahs. And all those candle flames, two per candelabra that first night up to nine at the last, plus two on whichever night Shabbat happened on — all those flickering yellow-orange teardrops reflecting and reflecting and reflecting against the midwinter darkness.
I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there. But I’m content with remembering my favorite visual memories from childhood, of all those lights, candles and reflections, shining, flickering, dancing against the dark.