When the holiday of Chanukah appears on my radar screen, I find that all of my senses are awakened as I begin my walk down memory lane and relive my annual Chanukah recollections. In my mind I am able to hear the singing of “HaNeiros Halalu” and “Ma’oz Tzur” that was often followed by the high-pitched ripping of gift wrap paper as Chanukah gifts were opened. As I inhale, the aroma of latkes that wafted from the kitchen still fills my nose. I can see my extended family joking around in the living room as we joined together for our annual Shabbos Chanukah-fest. My mouth waters as I recall the sweet taste of sufganiyot, jelly oozing down my throat. But at this time of year I also think about one Chanukah experience I had many years ago that was different from all others and never again repeated.
A friend of mine had gotten engaged and was having an engagement party at a shul near her home in a different state. I was a new driver, just beginning to spread my wings and taste the freedom that comes with driving to places to which one has never been. I could not believe my good fortune when I pulled up to the shul and found a spot right in front waiting for me. Beginner’s luck, I figured. But upon closer inspection of the street sign, I realized that I was sitting in a No Parking zone. Too good to be true. Even though I pulled away from the curb within seconds to begin my search for a legal spot, another car came up beside me at precisely the right time so that the tiny piece of metal that was sticking out of my front fender slashed and flattened its tire. Since I left the curb so quickly, I hadn’t checked to make sure there were no cars coming from behind. It was totally my fault. No doubt about that. And as I exited my car, I told the driver just that. I apologized profusely and promised to pay for any expenses he incurred due to my lack of judgment.
Well, if I wasn’t as lucky as I had thought when it seemed I had found a parking spot right in front of the shul, I definitely was lucky in terms of whose tire I damaged. I had run into none other than a Mr. Norm Laster. If I had to slash someone’s tire, he was definitely the man. Norm Laster was a very warm and cheerful fellow. He did not make me feel the slightest bit bad about what I had just done. I followed him in my car down to the nearest garage where they fixed his tire on the spot. While we were waiting, we each told the other a bit about ourselves. He told me that he was the host of a Jewish radio show on Sunday mornings. I told him that I had just started working as a social worker.
I honestly don’t recall why, but somehow it came up that I play the guitar. The next thing I knew, he invited me, a total stranger, to appear on his radio show the following Sunday for his Chanukah broadcast. I was tickled pink. I had never been on the radio before, nor have I been since. He had invited a few musicians to play on the show and he was very happy to have me join them. Despite the fact that I had to wake up insanely early on a Sunday to get to the studio on time, I was very happy to take him up on his offer. I laughed out loud as Mr. Laster introduced me on the air and asked me to explain exactly how we were acquainted. And I chuckled quietly to myself as I played Chanukah songs with the other musicians in the studio as if I were one of them. That was a joke in and of itself.
As I reminisce in my mind about my memories of Chanukah, a nostalgic smile still comes to my face when I think about the wide-eyed young adult who was given a one-time chance to dress up and be a music star for the day. A very happy memory indeed.
Suzie (nee Schapiro) Steinberg grew up in Kew Gardens Hills. She works as a social worker and lives with her husband and children in Ramat Beit Shemesh.