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CHANUKAH GIFTS


I want to buy her the perfect present, and this year, I’m sure I’ll find it. 

My mother works very hard – she teaches music in a school during the day and gives private lessons at night – but she’s always there for me, with a piping hot dinner and a listening ear, no matter what else is going on in her life. Maybe it’s because it’s just the two of us, or maybe it’s because we are similar in so many ways, but I never get it when kids roll their eyes or complain about their mothers. My mom really is awesome, and now that I’m old enough to have a decent amount of savings, I’d like to buy her something that shows her that. 

“What should I buy my mother?” I ask Miri on Monday morning as we enter the classroom. 

“Your mom?” she asks. “Why? Is her birthday coming up?” 

“No,” I say. “Chanukah. Remember?” 

“Oh, right.” Miri smirks. “So your type, to buy her a gift. I don’t know, maybe a designer scarf?” She chuckles. “A cleaning lady?” 

Miri may be my best friend, but she has two things in her life that make it very hard for her to understand me: a big family, and lots of money. 

I am debating whether to bother continuing the conversation when the bell rings. 

That evening, as soon as my mother leaves the house, I turn on the computer and begin my search. I browse perfumes, jewelry, clothing – but nothing calls my name. It’s all either super expensive or just plain boring. 

“How about a photo gift?” suggests my cousin Kayla when she calls later that night. “You know, like a mug or a blanket. Those are personal and not very pricey.” 

“She has lots of mugs,” I say, “and she’s not really the type to use a blanket with pictures all over it.” 

“So?” Kayla counters. “There are lots of photo ideas. Go to Snapfish or something and check it out.” 

So I do, but nothing looks very exciting. 

I put the search on hold for the next few days as my teachers shower me with a flurry of tests, but when I am finally able to breathe again, I still come up blank. 

“Last year, I bought my mother a gift certificate for a manicure and pedicure,” says my friend Rivky one day during recess when I try to pick her brain. “She said it was the best birthday present.”

If I bought my mother something like that it would probably collect dust until it finally expired; she’s way too busy to have time for that, and besides, she told me once that she has no patience to sit for half an hour while someone does her nails. 

On Sunday, I visit the mall with Miri. On Tuesday night we got to a boutique sale at a shul in the Five Towns. 

Nothing. 

A week before Chanukah, my mother sits down with me for dinner. 

“Rina,” she starts. “I wanted to get you something special for Chanukah, but….for once, I have no idea what to get. You are not a little girl anymore! Is there anything in particular that you’d like?” 

I laugh. “Mom,” I say. “I really should ask you the exact same thing. I wanted to surprise you, but I can’t think of a thing!” 

Now it’s Mom’s turn to laugh. “We make a fine pair,” she says. 

But it’s true. We do make a fine pair, because we finally come up with an idea – one that we can do together. 

A week later, we light the menorah together and head out to celebrate. 

Mom drives 45 minutes to a restaurant we’ve never been to before, carefully chosen by us both based on reviews and recommendations – and we’ve asked around plenty. 

“Mom,” I say. “Choose anything!” 

“Rina,” she says. “Choose anything!” 

It is a sumptuous, delicious meal. The best I’ve had yet. 

When the bill comes, I pay for mom’s meal, and she pays for mine. 

“Happy Chanukah!” we say to each other.

And as we spend the 45 minute car ride home discussing how much we’ve enjoyed our evening, I know we really have given each other the best gifts ever. 

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