So I finished putting up a succah (temporary dwelling) last night for the upcoming festival of Succot (Tabernacles) which begins tonight. Correction: I finished putting up THE succah. THE succah that has been in my family for twenty-five years. THE succah that kindles fond memories of my family and extended family's (grandparents and first cousins) sharing meals and life together every fall season: Memories of making bird's egg decorations with my Bubby (OB"M) for the succah. Memories of my father (OB"M) whacking his head on a hanging bamboo chime every time he entered. Memories of all the kids oohing and ahh-ing when Aunt Perri brought out her annual Boston Cream Pie for dessert the second night (my father -her brother's- namesake ushpizin night.) Memories of cowering in fear of the inevitable lone bee that strayed inside and the associated memory of my Uncle Wes (OB"M) insisting that if we'd just be patient bees always rise to the top. (Sidebar: We always had a hard time telling fact from fiction with Uncle Wes.) Of course, there was the singing. My G-d, the singing. My sisters and cousins were so melodious we'd have requests shouted at us from succahs down the block. Mostly, I have memories of our close-knit extended family sharing each other's company and feeling secure that we would spend every Succot together the same way. Unfortunately but inevitably, those days came to an end. This year, though, I'm putting together the succah for the first time in my own home and for my own family. I'll be hosting my in-laws and -for different meals throughout the holiday- a great many family and friends. Life has a way of coming full circle and I look forward to the beginning of the holiday tonight with greater anticipation than I've felt in years.
When we bought THE succah, it was state-of-the art. Now, twenty-five years later, it's a pain by contemporary standards to erect, thus no one in my family really wants it. Whatever, it's mine now and I'm not giving it back. After putting the finishing touches on the succah, tightening all the rigging, nursing my rope-burned, bamboo splinter-scarred hands, dusting off and hanging the last of the old decorations, all I could think of was: "Wow, we had a lot of plastic fruit."