Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Letting in the Light

Candles lit before a Valentine's Day service  at our Unitarian Universalist congregation.

Somehow, I think it is fitting that World AIDS Day and the first night of Hanukkah are coinciding, as is the case on this first day of December.  As I write, the weather is fitting too: dark morning skies, tornado-like gusts of wind and pounding rain rattling the windowpanes and taking me by surprise, a day made for crawling back underneath the covers and hiding from the world.

We in my immediate small family of four mark World AIDS Day and Hanukkah quietly; if left to others in my circle, they'd both disappear (would that AIDS would) and fade quietly into the impending darkness. 

Both have meanings for our family.  World AIDS Day brings a reminder of my beloved uncle lost to AIDS in 1996, a span of fourteen years that seems to be defined as both a chasm and a wink of an eye. He was a spark, a light in our family, his piano playing a source of never-ending music for us and the strangers who dined by it in the upstate New York restaurants in which he was part of the ambience.

So much surrounding AIDS is stigmatized and misunderstood, even still today with three decades of awareness and education notwithstanding. It is easy to let the stories and memories remain silent and buried, to keep names unmentioned, to remain in the darkness. It is the reason I am writing about him and his story in my novel in progress and the reason why I am often finding it so hard to do so. 

In recent years,we've kept Hanukkah in the dark and let this holiday slip away too. We often need to be reminded of the date of the first night. Perhaps the menorah will be brought out for the first night, assuming we can remember where it is located and if I remembered to buy an extra box of candles last year. (Because I can never, ever find Hanukkah candles when I need them, like tonight.) If not, the red Yankee Candle from the powder room will do as a symbol.

The Husband was raised with a healthy dose of both Jewish and Catholic traditions, but identified primarily as being Jewish.  Before getting married and before the thought of Betty and Boo, we had the "what shall we do about the children?" conversations. We'll celebrate both, we decided, introduce them to both traditions and both faiths.  In the midst of such, The Husband's sister introduced us to Unitarian Universalism and for a time, it was like a light switched on in the darkness of our lives. This was the solution, this was the answer.  I still believe it is, although we have admittedly allowed it to slip away a bit, for reasons big and small, and have kept this in the darkness. 

We'll light the candles after a decidedly non-Hanukkah dinner of macaroni and cheese or spaghetti, because I didn't have my act together to make a proper traditional meal. And then the candles and the lighting of them will be forgotten during a week of homework, of permission slips needing to be signed, of work obligations, of errands to be run, of appointments to be kept and cancelled.

It is easy to forget.  It is easy to remain silent.  It is much harder to embrace and to remember to let in the light.  It should be the other way around. 

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


K A B L O O E Y said...

Thanks for the timely reminder to pay attention to what's important. And also the reminder that I wanted to check out Unitarian Universalism ever since I wrote about that Oprah quiz in August.

Elizabeth said...

So much to talk about in this post. Have you read Mark Doty's memoir "Heaven's Coast" -- if not, you MUST, particularly as it relates to your uncle, AIDS, mourning, writing, etc. I'm almost jealous that you get to read it for the first time!

On another note, we used to go to a Unitarian Church in NYC -- the famous All Souls -- my first and second children were consecrated there and "named" -- I've never found a similar community in Los Angeles, and I miss it so much.