As children of Ohio’s Appalachian foothills, autumn was one of my greatest joys. My brother and I soared into the piles of fallen brown leaves. The crunchy cushion softening our falls. We’d jump up, laughing, “Again, again, again.” The satisfying crackle of metal moving the decomposing leaves into a mound filled our autumn days.
Kids can find the joys in most anything.
As an adult I sometimes am annoyed by seasonal shifts. Sometimes I might look forward to sweater-weather, or spring blossoms, but looking forward comes with a dash of malaise. Time’s passage means we have less of it. To look forward to a year’s end, as I have felt throughout 2022, means I am wishing away precious time.
And yet, I cannot help but always look forward to a new year.
Today is the Jewish New Year. A holiday that asks practicing jews to throw away whatever has not served us. The holiday comes at a new moon, and is aligned with the autumnal equinox too — a powerful celestial moment, if you are open to that sort of woo woo thing.
Jewish holidays might look like celebrations, but really they are an excuse to dive into our suffering. I grew up suffering through boring synagogue services that went on and on about how our people had suffered for generations. Later at my Grandma’s house we smiled and joked as we ate kugel (a sweet noodle casserole), matzo ball soup, brisket, wine so sweet it hurt the teeth, and apples dipped in honey, but we were also watching our elders grow more frail. These gatherings were our elders’ way of reminding us to keep our cultural traditions alive throughout our generation’s changes. But then my grandmother died, and we all stopped gathering.
As a mom, I had to figure out how to celebrate this holiday. I tried synagogue, but didn’t feel right forcing the boys to sit through something I didn’t like either. So instead I started cooking. I learned from family and friends how to make my own holiday meals — green bean salad from my CSA box, pomegranate chicken from a local farm, potato kugel. Over the years, we hosted gatherings with different friends and extended family. Then during Covid, it was just our little family alone in the dining room. Now, we’re back to gathering, but time and ailments make it harder for our entire clan to share a table. Change, it appears, is…