Sarah stood across the street from her Bubbe’s and Zayde’s house. The evening of December 24th, the first night of Chanukah this year, was cool, even in the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood, but she had dressed for the occasion. She made sure the coat she was wearing wouldn’t attract attention in case anyone saw her.
Sarah wished she could get closer. She wished she could just knock on the door and go inside, but she wasn’t supposed to be there and she wasn’t supposed to change anything.
Wait! There they were. She could see them through the window in the front of their house. Bubbe and Zayde. Her big brother Aaron, all of seven years old, was excitedly jumping up and down next to them. Sarah couldn’t hear anything of course, but she could see everyone’s facial expressions and imagined Zayde firmly but kindly helping Aaron to calm down.
Tradition says that the Chanukah menorah must be placed either in a central area of the home or by a window. The latter is to proudly announce that a miracle had occurred and this was the commemoration of that miracle. Sarah was watching her family tonight thanks to a miracle she had created herself.
Since this was the first night, Zayde carefully placed the menorah on the small table by the living room window facing the street while Bubbe disappeared, presumably to get the candles.
Then Daddy joined them. Mommy wasn’t there this year because she had to stay home and take care of little Sarah who had the flu.
As the head of the household, Zayde took the Shamash candle and lit it with a match. Then as everyone said the blessings, he used the Shamash to light the candle for the first night of Chanukah. Sarah whispered it along with them.
“Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kidishanu b’mitz’votav v’tzivanu l’had’lik neir shel Chanukah, Amein.”
“Blessed are you, O’Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to light the lights of Chanukah. Amen.”
A silent, solitary tear ran down Sarah’s cheek as she watched her family next say the blessings for the Chanukah miracle, and then the Shehecheyanu.
After that, they disappeared from the window. No doubt, Bubbe had latkes frying in a pan on the stove, and Zayde and Daddy were playing dreidel with Aaron. Sarah continued to stand on the sidewalk outside and stare longingly at the Chanukah lights.
Sarah Goldstein, Ph.D in Temporal Physics from Berkeley, thirty-five years old, married, three months pregnant, had no right to be there, but she had to come. Two days from now, this now, her Bubbe and Zayde would be killed in a car accident on Interstate 10 traveling to her home in Santa Monica to visit their sick five-year-old granddaughter Sarah.
Tonight, little Sarah had to stay home with Mommy while Daddy took Aaron to Zayde’s and Bubbe’s house for the first night of Chanukah. Sarah never got to see them that night, never got to say good-bye. For years, she had been jealous of Aaron for getting to spend this night with them when she couldn’t.
“They died trying to visit me. I know it’s not my fault…but I really, really miss them and had to see them just once more.”
Sarah didn’t realize she was talking to herself. She did realize it was time to go back, to return to her home thirty years in the future. She turned and walked down the street, back toward the connection point. The transfer field was scheduled to open in less than five minutes, her only chance to get back to her life in the present.
She thought she had grieved, that she had forgiven herself, but now that she was expecting her first child, now that her own parents were about to become Zayde and Bubbe, Grandpa and Grandma, she had to see them one last time.
It wasn’t the reason she invented the time portal, but once she completed it, once she discovered she was pregnant, with Chanukah in 2046 only a day away, she had to use it.
Professor Stein, the head of the TimeTeck Research Lab in Menlo Park, wouldn’t understand her unauthorized use of the Temporal Transfer Equipment, but he didn’t have to. Tonight, it wasn’t about science, or research, or government grants, or following operational protocols. Tonight was about following her heart, even if it was stuck thirty years in the past.
But now that she was laying all of that to rest, her heart could return to her own life, to David, her husband, and to the tiny baby she nurtured within her.