Category Archives: Chanukah

Of miracles and gratitude: ‘Make new friends but keep the old…’

 

 

Two years ago, Peter and Margaret Hunter, friends from England, visited us in our home in Kissimmee, Florida. They brought two bottles of Moet Chandon Brut Champagne, which we tucked away for a future occasion.

This week, the Hunters were back in Florida, and Peter asked us if we had drunk the wine. When I told him it was still sitting in the box, he admonished me.

“That kind of wine doesn’t age well,” said Peter. “It doesn’t last unless refrigerated properly. We’ll pop it open next week before we head back to the other side of the pond!”

During Chanukah, we celebrate miracles: There was only enough oil in the Eternal Light to last for one day, but somehow, it lasted for eight. I was thinking about the Hunters and the wine in relationship to our upcoming holiday. Yes, Chandon Brut Champagne doesn’t last long, but our friendship with the Hunters, that began on a Jamaican beach, gets better with age. And I began to reflect on special friendships in my life that miraculously have stood the test of time and distance between us.

Betsy Odams Porter and I met in second grade and immediately became best friends. Betsy was beautiful, with thick red hair, and a single child.  We  spent hours at her home, playing with her Madame Alexander dolls. In seventh grade, Betsy and her family moved to Texas, and I was devastated. She and her parents came back for a visit when we were sixteen. A few years later, my father got the phone call that Betsy’s father had died in a car accident. After that, Betsy and I shared an occasional letter.  She reported that she had two sons, had divorced and gone back for her master’s in nursing, and then had remarried.  And then came Facebook. We reconnected, and in 2011, Betsy and her second husband visited Larry and me in Clifton Park. She still was beautiful, still had her gorgeous red hair, and still loved me. “My best friend!” she cried as we shared our first hug in over forty years. She was the first friend to call me after to Pittsburgh tragedy to express her grief and outrange.

It took me a while to find a friend to be as close with as Betsy, but in high school, I met Chris Allen, who was a year behind me. Chris was brilliant and compassionate and a wonderful listener. We shared confidences and Simon and Garfunkel and lots of notes. She was the one who encouraged me to pursue writing, and she was the one who suggested we take a summer  class at Plattsburgh State in 1967. For my high school graduation, she gave me a blank black journal in which she inscribed “For your writing. “ She was my soulmate. Unfortunately, we lost touch while we were in college. I didn’t even invite her to my wedding, a decision I regret to this day. But two years ago, she came to visit me at my brother’s cottage on Lake Champlain. We walked and talked for an hour and a half, and we hadn’t missed a step. We still keep in touch with snail mail, and I will be in touch when I head north to visit family and friends. 

I met my college roommate Denise Gorham Donato my first day of college, and we bonded immediately. Within a week, she nicknamed me ‘PTuke’, a moniker that stuck through college and beyond. We were so different: I was intense, organized, and feverish in my need to complete every assignment with a few days to spare. Deni was outgoing, spontaneous, and the queen of the all-nighter. She worked several jobs, including one at Dom’s sandwich shop on Central Avenue. When she came home around 11:30 pm, I would wake up and we  would catch up while munching on tuna subs she brought home in long white bags. Until this day, I can’t smell an onion without thinking of our midnight snacks. 

A month after our graduation, Deni married Phil and settled near Syracuse. Larry and I would visit her when we went out to visit Larry’s Uncle Asher and Aunt Fran. The four of us went to a Syracuse University game in the snow and kept in touch with an occasional letter. After Asher passed away, Fran moved down to Murrells’ Inlet near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. 

When we moved to Florida,  Deni and I lost touch for a while. Last September, I sent a note to Deni, telling her about the publication of my second book and checking in with her.  Both of us were shocked when we realized that she owned a condo only one mile from Fran’s place in South Carolina. The four of us met for dinner this year when she and Phil came to Orlando for Phil’s  reunion with college friends. We plan on meeting up in Murrell’s Inlet this winter when Larry and I visit Fran. 

Judy Lynch and I met in 1984, when her daughter Katie and my son Adam were on the same tee-ball team. We met up again when our two younger daughters bonded when they were on the same swim team. It is a friendship that has lasted over twenty years, through our children’s high school years through  Katie’s death from leukemia in 2009 and through the Lynch’s part-time residence in Boston and our move to Florida. When we talk, we have to reserve one or two hours of free space. Our cell phones have often come close to losing battery power before we finish. 

In 1987, a year after I had gone back to teaching at the Capital District EOC, Susan Hoff Haynes came on board as a new academic instructor. What started out as mutual hatred changed when Sue called to talk. We found out that our similarities were so much more than our differences. Along with our friend Melanie, we became ‘The Three Amigas.” Mel passed away from non-smoker’s lung cancer the month before Larry and I moved to Florida. Sue has come down to see us for the past two years on Martin Luther King’s Birthday and already made plans to make it three in a row this year. Each time she comes, she and I swim laps, attend a book club, talk politics, and share confidences, just like we have done since 1987. We don’t miss a beat. 

In 2008, Larry and I spent a week in Jamaica, where we met up with the Bunny Bunch, several couples who had already met over Easter Week at the same resort for several years. It was through our many visits to that Caribbean Island that the friendships grew. When Larry and I moved to The Sunshine State, we curtailed our Jamaican trips. However, members of the Bunny Bunch, including the champagne-bearing Hunters, now come to see us at Thanksgiving. Larry and I share our American holiday with fellow American,British, and Canadian friends. 

Since moving to Kissimmee, Larry and I are grateful to have met many people in our fifty-five plus community, in our synagogue, in our greater community. As we celebrate the Festival of Lights and share the joy of this holiday season and secular new year, I am grateful for the joy of establishing new friends.  I am also grateful for the  miracle of sustaining so many long-time friendships, including the ones I highlighted above. These ties,  like the oil in that temple lamp, have lasted long and well. 

We’ll have a 27 with eggroll…… and a happy holiday to you.

On December 23, Larry and I traveled 400 miles to spend time with our friends, Chris and Bernie Grossman in their new home in Tallahassee, Florida, And on December 25, the Shapiros and Grossmans upheld tradition as steeped in Jewish culinary ritual  as brisket on Rosh Hashanah, potato latkes on Chanukah, and matzo ball soup on Passover. We ate Chinese food on Christmas Day.

Growing up in a small town in Upstate New York, my family  didn’t eat Chinese food on Christmas Day, or most other days of the year. If there was a Chinese restaurant in Plattsburg, the “big town” near us, I don’t remember ever going there.

Once or twice a year, my father would pile my mother and the four children into the station wagon and drive the ninety minutes to Montreal. We would weave our way into Chinatown and head to the Nanking Cafe. We would climb a set of steep stairs and crowd around a table in a booth. (Family lore tells of the time that my brother Jay drank the water in the finger bowl.) The wonton soup and noodles would be followed by chow mein (much better than the stuff we ate out of cans that we got at the local Grand Union). We would finish up with fortune cookies and vanilla ice cream and head back home. To be honest, that was the extent of our seeing Montreal until I visited the World’s Fair in 1968.

The Chinese food at Christmas tradition started for me after Larry and I married and bought a home in Saratoga County in 1976. Ling’s, near the corner of Routes 146 and 9 in Clifton Park, was the only restaurant open on December 25th. (It was also the only Chinese restaurant in a ten mile radius; there are now at least ten!) Larry and I met half the Jewish population of our community there.

By the next year, we were going to Ling’s with a group of friends. And by the time our children left home, we had a standing date for a December 25th dinner with the Grossmans and several  other couples in various Chinese restaurants throughout the Capital District. Wherever we chose to go, we could count on sharing the evening with tables of fellow Jews—including many rabbis and their families.

The tradition continued when we moved to Florida in 2015, when the Grossmans and another of our regulars, Joyce and Mel Toub joined us in Kissimmee for three days. Of course, we had reservations at the local Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day.

Last year, Chanukah started on December 24. Congregation Shalom Aleichem in Kissimmee held a community dinne. I was hoping we would be dining on huge metal pans filled with vegetarian or kosher style dishes  from one of the two Chinese restaurants close to our shul. To my disappointment, the committee planning the event opted for Italian. The next day, we joined my brother Jay, his wife Leslie, and their family for a traditional Chanukah meal in Sarasota.  This year, however, we are back on track for wonton and moo shu. This time we are doing the traveling—four hundred miles to Tallahassee—all to get into the Jewish ritual of eating Chinese food on December 25.

According to Mathew Goodman, author of Jewish Food: The World at Table, the Jews’ love dates back over one hundred years ago, where the Lower East Side of Manhattan was populated by Eastern European Jews, Italian, and Chinese. “Italian cuisine and especially Italian restaurants, with their Christian iconography, held little appeal for Jews,” Mark Tracy wrote in a 2011 Atlantic article. “But the Chinese restaurants had no Virgin Marys. And they prepared their food in the Cantonese culinary style, which utilized a sweet-and-sour flavor profile, overcooked vegetables, and heaps of garlic and onion”—all similar to Eastern European cuisine.

Another theory was included in a 1992 academic (seriously!) paper by Gayle Tuchman and Harry G. Levine in which they supported the idea that Chinese food was ‘Safe Treyf.’ True the dishes featured un-kosher foods including shellfish and pork. But it was chopped and minced and mixed with so many vegetables, it as disguised. As stated in a 2007 blog post Feed the Spirit, “If pork was in wontons (which looked very much like Jewish kreplach) or in tiny pieces in chop suey, it didn’t seem as bad as chowing down on a ham sandwich. And the Chinese typically don’t cook with dairy products, so no one had to worry about mixing milk and meat. “

The concept has made it to the highest court in our country. According to the Judaism 101 website, Justice Elana Kagen brought up the Jewish/Chinese food connection  up at her 2010 Supreme Court confirmation hearing. When a senator asked her where she was on Christmas, she said, “You know, like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.”

In 2009, Brandon Miller even penned a song: “I eat Chinese food on Christmas/Go to the movie theater, too/‘Cause there just ain’t much else to do on Christmas/When you’re a Jew.”

As you can tell by her undecidedly non-Jewish name, Chris was not born Jewish. She converted after she met Bernie at Grinnell College. Chris, whose Hebrew name is Chava, keeps kosher. So on December 15, in a Chinese restaurant in Tallahassee, she ordered the egg drop soup and a fish or vegetarian entree.

The rest of us, however, ate “Safe Treyf.” Larry ordered shrimp in garlic sauce. Bernie got the egg rolls and something with beef (“Bernie always eats something with beef, no matter what ethnic variety food we have,” quipped Chris).And I got my favorite—chicken moo shu chicken with wonton wrappers and plum sauce. After the main meal, we popped open our fortune cookies and shared the Chinese predictions for the upcoming year. Then we went back to the Grossmans and dined on my “world famous chocolate chip cookies,” another long-standing holiday tradition  for us friends. We raised a glass of wine, shout  L’Chaim (ToLife!) and anbei (sounds like: “gon bay”) the traditional Chinese toast which literally means ‘dry cup.’

The Hebrew year is 5778 and the Chinese year is 4715. That must mean, the old joke goes, that against all odds the Jews went without Chinese food for 1,064 years.As fortune (cookie) has it, however, this year we enjoyed Florida sunshine, friendships, and Chinese food.

(Capital District) Jewish World, December 28, 2017.

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The Grossman and Shapiros walking off our Chinese dinner.

Chanukah Gifts…giving and receiving

 

Larry and I have many “pets” in our home. A butterfly rests outside our front door, and two larger ones fly on our lanai wall. A two foot bear clutching his “Bear Feet Only” sign greets visitors on the front porch. Pedro the Parrot hangs on a curtain rod. And various bulldogs—stuffed, ceramic, and metal, are stationed around the house in honor of the nickname my boss gave me when I moved from the classroom to an administrative office.

However, I would have to say my favorite animals in our menagerie are three turtles and a pelican. These metal copper sculptures are the creative work of a talented  Albuquerque, New Mexico, artist who made last year’s Chanukah very special.

In July 2015, Larry and I were spending the summer in Frisco, Colorado, with our daughter Julie, her husband Sam, and their newborn daughter Sylvie Rose. We had arrived in the Rocky Mountains less than a month after we had moved into our new home in Florida. We had brought several pieces of art for our walls, but many other spaces were empty by choice. We knew that much of the art work that was on the walls from our Upstate New York—much of it reflective of the Adirondack Mountains fall scenes, Early American accents would not work in Florida, especially since we had purchased the very Florida furniture in our resale from the previous owners.

One area that was tricky for us to decorate was a shadow box effect in the living room. We needed to find something to fill a recessed space in a hallway that would reflect our now Southern address. In August, we were at an art show in downtown Frisco when we noticed some colorful, unique pieces in copper. Many of the objects were reflective of the Southwest: lizards, snakes, kokopellli. We introduced ourselves to Greg Gowen, the artist manning the outdoor booth.

Greg, a native of Texas, was born in 1968 and began welding at age eight under the guidance of his father and mother, Mike and Martha Gowen, both well known artists and gallery owners.“My daddy showed me how to sculpt,” he wrote on his webpage, “and my mother taught me to make it beautiful.” At the age of eighteen Greg turn to the art world for his career. He began participating in art shows around the Southwest. Galleries quickly became aware of his talent and began exhibiting and selling his work. Today, Greg’s sculptures are displayed in private collections, galleries, and museums throughout the United States and abroad.We were lucky to happen upon his beautiful copper sculptures. We were especially attracted to his turtle design.

After we emailed the the dimensions of the shadowbox when we returned home, Greg suggested we purchase three turtles, a “mother” and two “babies,” to fill the space.

The family of turtles arrived as ordered within the next few weeks. The colors, the size, the way they fit into the space-they were perfect. We named them—Mother Turtle Tessie and her two children Tommy and Tillie—and posted a picture on Facebook announcing their arrival. The three turtles were a conversation piece when we showed people our new home.

It was time to fill more walls. We found a photo of a beach scene mounted on wood that fit over our couch. We added a palm tree clock to the laundry room and a fish clock onto the lanai. In Key West, we found two signs for our guest bedroom: One read, “Honestly now. What’s Your Hurry? You’re here!” The second was a colorful road sign showing the mileage to Boston, New York City, and San Francisco.

What was missing was a piece for our guest bathroom. I was the butterfly lover and bulldog-moniker nickname bearer of the family, but Larry loved pelicans. I knew from his website that Greg had not done pelicans before, In May 2016, I contacted Greg via email to see if he could work his magic in creating a version of Larry’s favorite bird to hang over the toilet. Greg responded a couple of days later with his answer. Yes, he would love to create the figure. As I had already missed the deadline for Larry’s May birthday, he promised to have completed by Chanukah.

Greg and I were in touch over the summer. In late October, however, I realized I hadn’t heard from him, nor had any pelicans flown our way via UPS. When he failed to respond to an email, I sent him one more. If he couldn’t get it to us in time for Chanukah, I understood. I’d give it to Larry for his May birthday.

On December 24,Greg emailed me his apologies.  He wanted to surprise Larry and me with the pelican in time for Christmas but mailed it to the wrong address. He felt terrible as it won’t be under our Christmas tree.

I wrote him back immediately with the good news that we were Jewish. December 24 was not only Christmas Eve, but also the first night of Chanukah. Getting it on the third or fourth day of our holiday would be fine.

True to his word, the pelican arrived on the following Tuesday. “Peter the Pelican fits perfectly in our bathroom,” I wrote. “Larry and I are very happy with the newest member of our menagerie. How much do I owe you?”

“Nothing,” Greg wrote back. “I was late in getting it to you. It is my gift for the aggravation I caused.”

Larry and I were grateful for Greg’s generous offer, but we couldn’t accept. I wrote him a note thanking him but telling him we were very aware of the time he had taken to design and craft our pelican and ship Peter to his new home. I enclosed a check for $180. “The number 18 has special significance in Judaism,” I told Greg.”It signifies life. Use the money to  do something special for you or your grandchildren.”

A couple of months later, Greg emailed me to tell me that he had used our money to treat Greg, his wife Debbie, and Martha and Del Pettigrew, two fellow artists, to dinner at a lovely restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona. The four of them raised their wine glasses in a toast to the Shapiro’s. “I love creating metal works for patrons like you!” wrote Greg in his thank you.  “May God richly bless you.”

I was happy to learn that our gift to him had created wonderful memories with his friends—memories that were more poignant when Del passed away a few months later. That special dinner was the last time they saw their dear friend.  “What a profound effect your generosity has had,” Greg wrote recently. “I will never forget!”

Greg continues to sculpt, drawing inspiration from all over. He carries around a sketch pad in case something sparks an idea. “My favorite part of my art is when I see a customer connect with a piece,” he wrote on another art gallery website. And through his turtles, his pelican, and mutual generosity, we have connected with Greg.

First published in The Jewish World, December 7, 2017.

 

THE HOLIDAY CARD: CONNECTING WITH OTHERS AND SHARING OUR LOVE

Jewish World Holiday Letters 2

 

The holidays are over. The greeting cards we find in our mailbox are slowing down to a dribble.Yet,  I totally understand if they arrive even mid-January. I’ve had numerous years where good intentions to get all my cards signed, sealed and delivered before the first night of Chanukah or before Christmas Eve have failed.

We were fortunate to receive many lovely holiday cards from across the country throughout the past month.  Most were simple but attractive ones from Hallmark or American Greetings. The two handmade cards, beautifully crafted pieces of art, will get saved in my memory box to enjoy again and again. Many greetings were in the form of photo cards: a picture of my great niece and nephew with their labradoodle,; a three-generation photo from a childhood friend; a picture of two friends, Santa, and their “children”-two rescue dogs.

BRINGING US CLOSER

I especially appreciated cards that included a holiday newsletter that recapped the senders’ year and shared what their family had been up in 2016.  Reading about relatives, friends, and their loved ones, especially those that live far away from us, brought us closer together despite the miles between us.

Happily, this year, we did not receive any form of the ‘Dreaded Holiday Letter.’ You know the kind I mean. Happy Holidays! We just bought a little present for ourselves. The red Ferrari is parked in the four-car garage next to the Lexus, the Maserati, and the Tesla.  Of course we have to find the time to drive it  as we will be working around our upcoming trip to the French Riviera and our two month cruise to South America on our yacht. 

EDITS BY FAMILY

Embarrassingly, I may have been guilty of putting a little too much enthusiasm in past holiday letters. The Shapiro Year in Review was contained in a single-spaced letter with a border of dreydels or menorahs. Before I mailed it out, I would ask Larry, my husband,  and our children, Adam and Julie, to review it. Being much more private people than me, they would eliminate many of what I considered news-worthy items. “Too much information!” they would comment. The edited letters were shorter and considerably less, well, Pollyannaish.

Last year, I decided I wanted to go the photo card route. I created my masterpiece in a very short time at the Walgreens kiosk with three pictures representing our  year. One showed  Larry and me posing with Phineas and Ferb at Disney World. Another was a picture of Julie, her husband Sam, and their month-old daughter Sylvie Rose in their backyard. The third was a picture of Uncle Adam holding Sylvie.

I didn’t get them started by Chanukah, which started in early December, so I aimed for December 24. And then New Year’s. And then Martin Luther King’s Birthday. By the end of January, I purchased cute little heart stickers to add to the photo with the intention of mailing them out by Valentine’s Day. By April, I ruled out Easter egg stickers, and the ten plague stickersI found on the internet seemed a little depressing.

Sylvie was now nine months old and looked nothing like the infant in the pictures. The photo cards went into the trash, and the odd-sized envelopes are being used to pay bills that require a check and a stamp.

A NEW IDEA

Friends in England introduced us to the Jacquie Lawson website, and since then we have sent out its beautiful animated greeting cards for all occasions—birthdays, anniversaries, get well wishes, the winter holidays— to family members and friends.

I wasn’t going to repeat the photo card disaster. This year, Larry and I decided to send e-cards for the holidays. The Chanukah card, choreographed to Chanukah Oh  Chanukah, showed a lovely tree transformed into a brightly lit menorah. Our non-Jewish friends received a card set to a medley of Christmas songs that showed a sleigh making its way through a picture-perfect English village and surrounding countryside.

WELL RECEIVED

The first night of Chanukah fell on Christmas Eve, so it gave us more time to get them ready to send out. Of course we procrastinated until December 24th. Larry worked from his computer in the office getting out the Christmas cards while I worked from my laptop in the kitchen sending out Chanukah wishes to all our Jewish friends. By the time we left for the Chanukah party at our synagogue that evening, we had sent over one hundred cards with short personal notes to friends and family across the country and world.

I was a little concerned that the recipients would not bother to open them or, if they did, they would be bored with the ninety seconds of animation. We were therefore happy to receive thank you notes back from most the recipients within hours—sometimes minutes—after we clicked the send button. The e-cards were a success!

Recently, I saw the following quote in a friend’s kitchen: “Though time and miles may separate us, we have built a bridge of lovely memories to span the distance.” No matter how we share our good wishes for the holidays, and no matter when those good wishes arrive,  they all are sent and received with love and happiness.

Shapiro family creates Star Wars tradition

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Adam with his Star Wars action figures

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Timmy Harris as a Stormtrooper

During the eight days of Chanukah, in between candle lighting and latkes, my husband Larry and I will celebrate a Shapiro tradition: We will go to see the newest Star Wars film.We have been fans since Adam caught the Star Wars bug from a future storm trooper.

How It Began

In September 1979, I began substitute teaching two to three days a week at our local high school. We left Adam in the care of a wonderful baby sitter, Sandy Harris, who lived just down the street.

Adam was seventeen months old and just beginning to talk. His vocabulary consisted of a few words—mamma, dadda, apple dus.

Less than a month later, however, Adam shocked us by announcing at the dinner table, “I know Star Wars.”

“You know Star Wars?” Larry asked, astonished.

“Yes,” said Adam. “Luke Skywalker. Han Solo. Princess Leia. Chewbacca…”

And Adam continued to prattle on, clearly stating the names of  numerous characters from the Star Wars movies.

It didn’t take us long to figure out where Adam had picked up his expanded vocabulary. Sandy’s twelve-year-old son Timmy had been enthralled with George Lucas’ blockbuster since the first Star Wars was released in 1977. Kenner Toys had the license to make the related toys, and Timmy had collected them all. He set the little action figures and their spaceships on shelves in his  room, recreating scenes from the first movie and its sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. When he came home from school, Timmy would entertain his mother’s charge by allowing him to play with his collection. Adam was hooked.

Tales, Toys Capture Imagination

That Chanukah, Larry and I purchased several action figures and a Millennium Falcon for Adam.  He got more for his second birthday and the following Chanukah.  Although he had yet to see the movie, his interest and ability to recreate scenes using his collection and other toys as props—blocks, Legos, even a blanket on top of other toys—improved.

In April 1981, Larry and I planned a surprise for Adam for his third birthday. While I stayed home with his one-month-old sister, Larry took Adam to see a re-release of the original Star Wars film. This was Adam’s first movie, and he had no idea why he and his father were sharing a  box of popcorn in a huge room filled with chairs.  The minute the music started  and the opening credits rolled, however, Adam knew exactly what was happening. Our three-year-old was transfixed for the entire length of the film.

“Yours Eyes Can Deceive You. Don’t Trust Them”

Over the next few years, Adam watched and re-watched the first two movies and, in 1983, The Return of the Jedi. As the franchise expanded, Adam’s collection expanded—sometimes with his help.

When he was around four years old, Adam asked us if he could get a new Luke Skywalker as the light saber was missing. We refused, saying he could use a toothpick or a prop from one of the other characters. A few days later, Adam brought us a headless Luke.

“It fell off,” he explained. “Can I get a new one?”

So we replaced Luke, only to have Adam bring us a headless Storm Trooper, one of the white armored minions of the evil Empire, a few days later. When the head of bounty hunter Boba Fett also went missing, we realized that Adam was biting the heads off to get us to purchase a complete toy. His gig was up.

Adam’s passion for Star Wars continued until he was nine years old, when his interest in science fiction expanded to Star Trek and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The action figures and a couple of space ships were relegated to a box in the closet. By the time the series was revived in 1999, Adam was in college. On his visits home, he would occasionally open up the box, reminisce, and put them back on the shelf.

Once you start down the dark path….

In January 2015, Larry and I came back from a trip to Florida to sub-zero temperatures, twelve inches of snow on the front yard, and a broken mailbox, the victim of the town snowplow. A day after a call into town hall, a  Clifton Park truck was parked at the end of the driveway. I opened the door, to be greeted by no other than Timmy Harris, whom I had not seen in at least twenty years.

“I’m here to fix your mailbox, Mrs. Shapiro,” Timmy said. “But first I have to ask you a question. My mother has told me for years that because of me, Adam’s first words were the names of Star Wars action figures. Is that true?”

I assured him it was and recounted the story of that night over thirty-five years ago when Adam’s vocabulary increased exponentially.

“Are you still a Star Wars fan?” I asked Timmy.

“Absolutely!” Timmy responded. “ I have a two bedroom house, with one room devoted to forty years of Star Wars collectibles. My favorite pieces are still the Kenner toys from the late 70’s.”

Not only is Timmy still a fan, but also he is part of the 501st Legion, “Vader’s Fist,” an international costuming group that “troops” as the bad guy characters from Star Wars. Along with other members, Timmy dresses up as both as a Storm Trooper, and as Boba Fett.

The 501st’s main function is as a charity organization. In 2015 alone $587,000 was donated on its behalf to various children’s charities including Make-A-Wish Foundation, Ronald McDonald houses, and local pediatric hospitals. The “bad guys doing good” are also found at science fiction and comic book conventions and new Star Wars film openings.

Star Wars costuming is gratifying on a few levels.” Timmy later shared with me “I get to contribute to something worthwhile. And as a 49 year old man who dresses up as a plastic spaceman, I get to be a 9-year-old again. That’s worth all of the time, sweat and armor pinches that we go though.”

When Larry and I moved to Florida in June 2015, Adam requested we send him very little from the house—two Adirondack photographs and a Monet print, his yearbooks, and the Star Wars action figures. And like his parents, he too will be watching Star Wars: Rogue One over his holiday break.

Happy Hanukah, and may the force be with you!