“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”–Jane Howard

No Hanukkah is complete without a get-together with the Solomon side of the family. Usually Solomonukkah occurs in January, after the holiday rush, when all of the things that were hot sells during December go on the sales racks. (Go ahead, call us a stereotype.) However, with the newest addition to the family due in mid-January, we were forced to hold Solomonukkah during, God forbid, Hanukkah.

Thirty miles east of Poughkeepsie, we met with bad weather. Freezing rain turned the highway into a sheet of ice in minutes. I’ve never seen so many cars sliding off the road, hitting guardrails, hitting lampposts, hitting each other. It was only after we came within inches of slamming into the car in front of us (complete with my mother screaming, “We have no breaks! We’re gonna have an accident!”) and slid into the ditch in the median that we pulled over to debate the options.

Everyone else had the pull-over-on-the-side-of-the-road theory, too.

The idea of food and family proved too alluring, so we continued on. And besides, they had already closed the road behind us, so there was only one option. What is usually a two-hour drive took five and a half hours. In those hours, there were complaints, there was whining, there was frustration and there was terror. But there was black-ice-skating in a Valero parking lot, friendly banter with other stranded travelers and the unheeded “You’re better off going back where you came from,” courtesy of one of the 911 responders. (Oh, did I mention I had to call 911?) There were also Facebook/Twitter updates from the side of the road, talk of eating the icebox cake in the trunk (photo below) and some singing of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “10,000 Miles.” (Cue the opening scene from Fly Away Home.) And then there were stories about my mother and grandmother getting stranded somewhere between New York and home in the middle of an ice storm, angry relatives and fleabag motels. Something tells me that a few years down the line, my sister and I will be telling our kids about that one Hanukkah when we were convinced we were going to die on the side of an icy highway outside of Danbury.

After a couple hours of sheer hell, the sanding trucks finally arrived and made the highways driveable. We made it to cousin Jeff’s house just in time to eat dinner. And of course, to open Hanukkah presents.

Debating the ways one would die in a plane crash. Sadistic Solomons. And Saccocias. You really don't want to know how long this conversation lasted.

Proof that I win for best present of the night: Guy's pure glee at receiving a bottle of Lao alcohol, complete with a dead scorpion inside.

But the true champion of the night was Grandma Jackie's icebox cake.

The judge teaches Becca that it's OK to stick your fingers in the dessert tray.

Teaching Becca the way of the funny-face-self-photo.

Showing off what she's learned. True story: I first taught her how to do the monkey face four years ago. Go ahead, call me a good influence.

Who knew Jewish advent calendars existed?

To sum it all up…

“A great miracle happened on I-84”–I-84 נס גדול היה

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