Monday, December 17, 2012

The Best Hanukkah

Saturday was the eighth and final day of Hanukkah, but we started the afternoon off by going to buy our Christmas tree. The rest of our afternoon was busy preparing for the Hanukkah celebration we were hosting that evening. Such is the life of a family that celebrates both holidays.

Kai had been looking forward to Hanukkah for the past few weeks. Sometimes it seemed it was just for all the presents he would receive, but I think he really enjoys seeing his grandparents, cousins, uncle and aunt. He asked if his cousins Lucy and Peter were coming, and when I told him that they were, he was very happy.

My wife recruited Kai to help with some of the preparations. He and I hung the ‘Happy Hanukkah’ banner. Well, at least he watched me put it up. But he did join me in peeling carrots. He reminded us that he had done this before when his grandmother in Ohio had him help her in the kitchen last summer. He also told us that Uncle Frankie would be proud of him as he told Kai to help out Mom in the kitchen.

All was going well until Kai hurt his thumb while trying to peel a potato. My wife put a bandaid on it but Kai complained that it still hurt. I explained that a bandaid only stops bleeding, and his thumb was not bleeding, but it does not make the pain go away. He did not like that explanation and insisted that Mom put on another bandaid. She ended up putting three on that non-bleeding thumb. But that did not soothe Kai and he said that he wanted to cancel the party. Eventually, my wife couldn’t take any more of his loud complaints and sent him to his room.

I felt sorry for Kai; I’m sure he was in pain. But we had potatoes to peel and latkes to make and we were already running late. Neither my wife nor I had time to give Kai any more attention.

After awhile, he returned to the kitchen, and asked if someone would come up to his room with him. He really just wanted some attention. When I finally finished peeling the potatoes, I went up to his room while my wife completed the rest of the prep by herself.

By the time our first guest arrived, Kai was calm, the painful thumb was forgotten, and he was excited about the party. My wife and I still had to change clothes, but that was a small price for a happy child.

After that bit of a rocky afternoon, I was kind of worried about how Kai would do during the party. So I was relieved – no, correct that – I was amazed at how things went that night.

Kai negotiated the schedule with his grandfather, and then announced it to everyone. First, we would light the menorah. Then, have dinner. After dinner he and his cousins would give a concert. And then they would open presents.

Kai sang along softly as his aunt lit the candles on the menorah.

He ate his dinner nicely.

And then it was time to perform. All week, when my wife was trying to get Kai to practice his piece on the piano, he goofed off and frustrated her to no end. But on this night, he played as well as I’ve ever heard him play.

He also watched attentively while his cousins play percussion and flute.

Of course he was most excited it was time to open presents. He seemed to know that he would be getting Legos, and was happy to see the great sets he got.

When someone suggested that it was time for dessert, Kai declared that they would play with their presents for ten more minutes first. And when someone jokingly tried to change the schedule, Kai said “No, no, no. It’s my party” and let them know that he was in charge. Well, why not? He pretty much was.

After dessert, he wanted to play the dreidel game. And kept pestering people until Bubbe and I and one of his cousins agreed to play with him.

As the party seemed to lull, he asked his cousins to play with his new Weird and Wacky Contraption with him. And that got everyone involved and the fun picked up again.

As everyone was getting ready to leave, his uncle complimented him for “running a tight ship.”

I feel like I’m too tired and not explaining this well. But, just know that on that evening, if you did not know that Kai had autism, you would not have been able to tell.

He spoke a lot, and most appropriately. His language was wonderful.

Hanukkah is really for children. But seeing and hearing Kai’s interaction that night was truly a gift for me and my wife.

We send our belated Hanukkah greetings to Kai’s longtime speech therapist Alyson, without whom all this would not have been possible. And congrats on your recent marriage, too, Alyson!


  1. A great night for Kai, and a great night for you and your wife...mainly because of the great time Kai had. That is how families have good times.

    I am sure Kai had felt very proud to be able to perform for others on the Piano...almost as proud as his parents were of him.

    1. He was very focused while playing the piano. All week, my wife had been telling him that he would not get to open presents if he did not play piano nicely. I think he finally took her seriously that night.


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