This content also appeared on Yahoo Voices following a request for author submissions on memorable Hanukkah gifts.
As a kid, Hanukkah is a magical time of year. It’s not just the presents and the candles, but the feeling you have that something truly special is occurring, that has happened for centuries. As an adult, I often spend this time of year reminiscing about how my family spent Hanukkah when I was growing up, and how one day I’ll have children to celebrate with and traditions to create.
When I was five or six, I was probably the most animal-obsessed child in the United States (this continued through an embarrassing point in junior high). I spent every waking minute dreaming of what it would be like to live on a farm and have all kinds of pets. My room was covered from floor to ceiling with photos of animals, books on pet care and an assortment of trinkets and keepsakes I’d acquired over the years…I think I saw myself as a cross between a veterinarian and a zookeeper, who knows how I seemed to everyone else!
My parents did their best to humor me – I was particularly fond of dogs, and even volunteered to walk neighbors’ pups since I couldn’t have my own. You see, my brother had severe allergies and asthma, and a dog was completely out of the question. I never resented him for this (yet made him think I did), but I still longed for the day that this dream could become a reality.
Despite knowing it was an impossibility, I still asked for a dog that Hanukkah, because there was nothing else I could think of that I truly wanted. You could imagine my surprise when, on the first night of Hanukkah, my mom walked out with an enormous box, that she claimed was making noises and squirming a bit.
Was it a dog? No. Well, not quite.
It was the largest stuffed dog I had ever seen. I mean – this was a HUGE stuffed animal. I’d never seen anything like it and fell in love instantly. I knew this was nothing like having a real dog, but it was so close, and in my young mind, it was all I wanted. I treasured that dog – who I called Rusty – for years, and he still lives in my childhood bedroom.
As an adult, I have two very real dogs in my life, that bring me endless joy (and disasters). It’s true, nothing’s quite like the real thing, but sometimes the next best thing is all you need.
I’m so appreciative that my parents found a way to bring me what I needed that year in a way that fit our lives. And 20+ years later I still remember that Hanukkah gift above any other I’ve received.