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Honored Guest

Honored Guest

by Susan Gibbons


Dressed in her Sabbath best, Anna took her seat at the table. Her grandmother poured wine into her glass. Anna peered over at her younger cousins at the kid table. No longer did she have to eat from paper plates and drink grape juice from a plastic cup. She was at the adult table now.

“Gather round, family!” Zayda called as he straightened his yarmulke. The children stopped their game of Dreidel to stand beside their parents at the table. Her grandfather took his place at the head of the table.

“This has been a wonderful year for our family. Baby Noah, our first great-grandchild was born, and Katie has applied for Yeshiva Secondary. We are so proud of you, Katie.” Anna waited for him to say her name, but he moved on to telling the story of Hanukkah and the Maccabees, as he did every year. She forced a smile as she looked around the table. Everyone listened intently to Zayda’s story.

As her grandfather finished, he picked up a lighter and grabbed a white candle. Anna’s heart sank. Zayda had forgotten about her. He was going to light the menorah without mentioning her. She knew she needed to be mature about this. After all, she was now a grown-up sitting at the adult table.

Zayda paused, then said, “Come here, Anna.” She scooted her chair back as she blinked back the tears she felt coming. Her father squeezed her hand.

She stood chest high to her large grandfather. He bent down and whispered in her ear, “You didn’t think I’d forget my favorite doll, did you?” He turned her to face the family, putting an arm around her shoulder. “We all witnessed Anna become a woman at her Bat Mitzvah in April. Today, this first night of Hanukkah, she is our honored guest. Anna Marie would you like to light the first candle tonight?”

She gasped. Zayda never asked anyone to light the first candle. She nodded quickly. He placed the white candle, the shamash, in the center holder and added a blue one at the right end of the menorah. He lit it and sang the first and second blessings. Then, he picked up the shamash and handed it to his granddaughter.

Anna wiped her palms on the skirt of her dress. With shaking hands, she took it from him. She cleared her throat. With a tremble in her voice, she sang the third blessing as she stared at the flame. She glanced up quickly to catch her mom taking a picture of her. When she finished, she carefully held the shamash to the only candle in the menorah. In unison, everyone said, “Amen.”

She replaced the shamash back into the middle where it belonged. Her family clapped. Father wiped away a tear that streamed down his cheek. Zayda gave her a bear hug. Before saying the dinner prayer, he sang a favorite Hanukkah song while everyone joined in. This was a night that Anna would remember the rest of her life.