Bring on the Thanksgiving noodle kugel

In the 20 years I have lived in Hawaii I  only traveled to the mainland twice to spend Thanksgiving with family. Once I met my mother and youngest sister in L.A.. When my daughter was a toddler,  I took her to Kansas City to share the holiday with my mother and oldest sister.

Both were disastrous. Not in the family dynamics kind of way, when one part of the family is not speaking to another part so you can’t sit them next to each other at the table type of thing. We always enjoy the company. It was more about the logistics.

From L.A., my plane was terribly delayed and I did not make it home in time for work on Monday. That soured me on peak travel dates forever after.

In Kansas City it was cold. “Duh,” you might respond. “The Midwest in November? Hellooooo.”

Yes, I knew it would be cold. Yes, I took warm clothes. My mom bought cute little puffy snow jackets at Steinmart for my daughter and greeted us with gift sets that included ear muffs and warm woolen gloves and caps suitable for the most fashionable of bunnies on the slopes. We were suitably armed.

However, I did not take into consideration the discomfort  of  my three-year-old who was used to wearing slippers all year round and who had never experienced the stifling feeling of  thick socks or a jacket that looked like it was made of jet puffed marshmallows sewn together by the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

She was fine when we were in the house. My mom turned up the heat and my daughter did not have to don layer after thick layer for protection against the elements. She was free. It just turned out hard to  hard to go anywhere without a fuss. So we stayed home.

One year my family came here. They stayed at Ko Olina. We had Thanksgiving at the Ihilani. All was good.

I have gotten used to not being together on holidays. I’ve comfortably absorbed into the local families I know and put together one of my own in the past few years.

This year we spent Thanksgiving in Makaha with the Suisos. One of our favorite places and definitely some of our favorite people.

I knew I would not miss my mother due to distance. I did know that I would miss her because I miss her every day. Because it is a special occasion and I would not be able to call and say hello, I wanted find a way to honor her memory and feel her with me in some way.

I wore jewelry she had given me over the years: a ring that my father had given her that I’ve been wearing since high school and some earrings that I bought with one of her birthday checks a few years ago.

And I made “The Kugel.” My mother’s noodle kugel made its appearance at every festive meal except Passover (no noodles on Passover.) We enjoyed its buttery cinnamon sugar goodness  on holidays, Jewish or non.

I started making it almost ten years ago as an addition to our holiday menu. She sent me the recipe. It made my exotic life feel more like home. I don’t prepare it for every holiday. This year I did.

It came out perfect and tasted delicious.

As people passed through the improvised buffet line I heard them ask, “What is it?” With each explanation that “Kugel means casserole in Yiddish and it was my mother’s recipe,” I felt a  connection.

Not enough to completely replace my mother’s presence at the table at which she would not usually sit. But certainly sufficient to brighten her memory and let her distant presence  energize its sparkle in my life and enrich our celebration and appreciation.

Thank you, Mom. Very much.

Target brings a miracle of Chanukah to Kapolei

I have been holding off on writing my annual diatribe against all of the retail establishments who have had their Christmas merchandise on display  since before Halloween. I am amazed (appalled)  at how the Fall season has some how tragically become an almost three-month countdown to the biggest money-making event capitalists could possibly conceive: Christmas.

I even thought of adding a new category to this blog entitled “Kvetching” and lead off with my favorite seasonal complaint mentioned in the previous paragraph. But stuff just kept getting in the way.

I’ve been busy with my family and Rotary and my new job. I haven’t been shopping a whole lot. And I did not want to make that particular complaint a signature issue of a blog that I’ve created to explore how my unique experiences connect with the larger community on the island, on the mainland, across other oceans and definitely other religions.

I still like the idea of creating a category called “Kvetching.” Everybody needs the chance to whine and complain now and then.

Today I am not going to complain. Just the opposite. I am going to kvell (Maybe that should be a category as well. Maybe I should rename all of my categories with Yiddish titles.)

Something great happened yesterday and I am of the sneaking suspicion that it is my own very personal reward for exercising a bit of self-restraint. I have not complained too much about the fact that Christmas trees that have been subtly emerging over the past month or the “Holiday” decorations and events that are named with such political correctness, but adorned with absolutely no diversity whatsoever.

I have simply rushed passed them and when my children were in tow, murmured minimal mumblings about the silliness of it all. I have not gotten worked up at all.

Until yesterday. We stopped by Target on our way to the IPA Scholastic Book Fair to get some supplies for the Ko Olina Resort & Marina Thanksgiving Outreach we are participating in today. The Rotary Club of Kapolei will be serving 200 meals at the US Vets facility at Kalaeloa.

That’s when it happened. We were in the greeting card section when my younger girl joyfully exclaimed, “Chanukah decorations!”

I turned to look at what she was talking about and I saw it too, with my very own eyes, Chanukah decorations. It was not just one or two items shoved on a bottom shelf as a token nod to people who might be in search of something else in life besides Christmas. No, it was an entire section that was strategically placed at the end of the aisle to attract our attention and encourage us to buy, buy buy. And I did. There were plates, napkins, menorahs, dreidles, decorations and candles.

I was thrilled and my daughter was too.

When I first moved to Hawaii my mother had to send me stuff from her Temple gift shop in Kansas City. She’d send me Chanukah gelt and small dreidles to take to the kids’ classrooms. She sent  plates and napkins so we could have holiday appropriate celebrations in our home.

Whenever there was a Jewish holiday, Kapolei Safeway would display the matzah and chicken soup boxes as if that’s what we eat on a ritual basis.

Over the years I have been able to purchase what I need at our own Temple gift shop and have done a lot of online shopping as well. I always support the Innisbrook gift wrap fundraiser at IPA because they have Chanukah wrapping paper and gift bags.

Yesterday I supported Target. We bought plates, napkins, decorations and even some candles that we don’t need. If they are going to give us a whole section, I am going to shop there–whole heartedly.

My husband described it in  capitalist terms, if I show a demand they will offer the supply!

I don’t know how long those items were there. Perhaps they went up in October as well. But since the first night of Chanukah is on December 1 this year, I saw last night as excellent timing. A few weeks before the holiday, right around Thanksgiving is the perfect time to get “In the spirit.”

It’s like our own little Chanukah miracle, right in the middle of the Kapolei Target, offering a spirit of good will for the season. This  will certainly buoy me down the aisles of that store and others with a much smaller kvetch on my tongue and a good dose of holiday cheer in my heart.