On Saturday I engaged in a futile search for Chanuckah gelt on my sister-in-law's behalf. Gelt, for the uninitiated, means money but in this context refers to foil covered chocolate coins. It is a traditional Chanuckah treat and is often given inside of hollow plastic dreidels. Saturday's search involved 3 major chain drug stores and the local supermarket. Guys, my apartment complex was built by the Garment Workers Union. In other words -- Jews! Most of the older folk here are, indeed, Jewish or of Jewish upbringing. (Apparently there are a significant number of Communists in the complex as we found out when someone came looking for signatures to get their guy on the Democratic ballot.) So ... why no gelt?
Having given up on the gelt and having passed up the only package of Dreidels that I noticed, we celebrated without.
Sunday night I hear, from my room, crying. Little Squid had just realized that a classmate would not be returning after the break and he wanted to give his friend a gift. He thought that a dreidel would be the perfect gift since his friend did not know what it was. "O.k.," say I, "why don't you stop off at CVS on the way home and pick one up for him." (That was where I saw the lone package on Saturday.) Fine. Off to dreamland he goes and that is the end of the story ... until the next night.
On Monday, Little Squid, Squidette, and Little Squid's chaperone go in to CVS and do not find ready-made dreidels. What they do find is a kit for making dreidels -- yes, out of clay. Home they come, read the directions and stuff quick-dry clay into the mold. Fast forward to 9 p.m. when Little Squid is supposed to be fast asleep. From the depths of my bedroom where I am snuggled deep in bed I hear sobs. Heartbreaking sobs. The kind of sobs that make a mother abandon her husband and run to help.
"I don't know if the dreidel will be ready in time. How can it dry in the mold?" Quick thinking, and without my glasses, I grope around on the floor for the instructions and, turning on the light, attempt to read them. Um ... "Little Squid, you read them."
"Take molded dreidel out of mold and trim excess off with scissors." O.k., seems simple enough. We grab the mold and start unmolding. Nope. No doing. That clay is stuck very nicely in the mold. I dig it out, ball it up and resmush it in the mold. Try once again to extract it. The dreidel is not having it.
O.k., time for some quick thinking again ... "let's leave it in the mold overnight and maybe it will harden enough to remove in the morning." He buys it. Time for bed. Again.
Tuesday morning we successfully extract one side from the mold and leave the other side, which does not want to give up its grip, in the mold to harden while we are gone for the day.
Tuesday evening the dreidel is successfully extracted and left to dry. "But I still have to paint it and one side has to dry before I can paint the other side. If I start it after my homework there will not be enough time to do both sides." The kid should be a lawyer except that he wasn't manipulating us, he was genuinely concerned, knowing the homework always comes first. We grant an exemption and promise that he can paint the first two sides before doing his homework and then finish it up after.
Meanwhile, Mama Squid is terrified that this will not work. She is convinced that the dreidel will not spin and will be far too wonky to please the somewhat picky youngest squid. In a rush of sad-child fueled guilt, she rushes in to two different drug stores on the Upper East Side on Tuesday evening and finds not one shred of Chanuckah stuff. On Wednesday morning she hits a CVS near Little Squid's school then Eli's (Eli Zabar for heavens sake is not stocking enough dreidels to get through Chanuckah?! They do have gelt but at $6 for 24 or so I'm not buying). Frantically she rushes in to a CVS and a Kings Pharmacy which are on her way to work -- still on the Upper East Side -- which is home to many, many Jews.
Finally, in a fit of desperation, Mama Squid parks near the Duane Reade in East Harlem. The logic here is that if all of the stores receive the same stuff to sell then if any store will have dreidels it will be the one in East Harlem -- a very non-Jewish area. Any guesses as to what she found? You got it! Nothing!!! But hey, they barely had Christmas stuff either.
Mama Squid slunk off to work and started sharing her tale of woe with fellow Jews. "Do you have a spare dreidel?" she begged. One promised to raid his son's stash and bring it in tomorrow. "Not the Mickey Mouse one," he said "my son won't part with that one." "And not the ..." "Never mind," came the response. I'll keep looking." Finally, Mama Squid's friend and mentor came through with a jelly bean filled dreidel. She was giving them to her student-aides for the holiday. Phew!
End of story ... the clay dreidel is painted and spins though it is still rather soft. Little Squid will give it to his friend on the last day of school.
(As for why this family has no dreidels to gift ... well it seems that we disposed of all but the glass ones during the great possession purge of the summer of '06.)