Monday, September 21, 2009

'Home' for the holiday

I took this photo Saturday with my cell phone at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. A popular gathering place, it's frequently a backdrop in movies. Jeanne, Katie and I sat on a bench in the warm sun and could have stayed all day, but Katie and I had to head back home. The park visit was a part of our whirlwind Friday/Saturday visit to New York for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

When I was in high school, I hung out at the fountain frequently. Most of my friends lived downtown, so we tended to congregate more there. But I also went to the fountain, much of the time with my cousin Nancy, who lived uptown like me. Nancy was (and still is) nine months older and seemed so grown-up and cool to me. She hung around with a bunch of older kids, including a couple of guys who frightened and fascinated me. (What were they, probably all of 19?) I trotted along with Nancy, doing what teen-agers did at the fountain in those days. It was, as they said, groovy.

This past Saturday, a gaggle of college-age students in Speedos ran around the fountain, stopping in front of people to perform little songs and goofy dances for them, then holding out their hat. I told Katie that if some silly guys did that in "our day," we would have thrown them into the fountain. (Oh, will those aging baby boomers ever stop talking about the good old days?)

Around this time last year, I wrote a post, Should I Stay or Should I Go?, about my indecision about returning to the "old country" for the holiday. I was about three-and-a-half months past my third transplant, and although I was, and am, attached to the traditions and to going to services, I stayed home and sent Katie alone to meet up with Ben and cousins. I had a little get-together at my house where we ate a round challah with honey, symbolizing no sharp edges and a sweet New Year.

This year I actually went, although Dr. Alyea said I shouldn't go to the crowded services. Once again, as it has been for all my little getaways, the weather was perfect. Katie and I drove down Friday afternoon and moved our stuff into the apartment building where I grew up, and where we now stay with my mother's 93-year-old friend, Muriel, who has become like an aunt to us. Then we went to a restaurant called Deux Amis, where we had dinner outside with my real aunt, Marge; her husband, Bill; and my cousin Jeanne, who brought a round challah. I'm not supposed to eat in a restaurant, but I can sit at outside tables, and I can order cooked food (not salads or anything raw.)

The next day when Ben and Katie went to services, Jeanne kept me company walking around the upper east side, near the 92nd Street Y, where the services are. For lunch, we met another cousin, Joanne, at an outside cafe – most of the places have outdoor tables now – and then ended up in the park. We really didn't want to leave. It would be nice if there was a machine that would woosh you up to where you want to go, so that you could linger but still get back home at a reasonable hour. But alas, there isn't, and we ended up getting home around 9 p.m.

Two large school systems around us, Amherst and Longmeadow, have a sufficient Jewish population to close on the Jewish holidays. But South Hadley does not. It felt good to be in the city, where store doors carried signs reading "Closed for Rosh Hashanah" and people dressed for temple crowded the streets.

Back home, we felt good that we had said the prayer over the round challah, visited with family and maintained some tradition. It was, of course, different, because we grew up celebrating it with my parents, who hosted the holiday dinner the night before, and then took us to a relative's house after temple. I missed them. But I could still hear my father saying, "Here's to a sweet New Year with no sharp edges!" He loved to say that.

L'Shanah Tovah. Peace and good health to everyone.


Marty said...

It's nice to hear of others who remember back to New York at the holidays. I concur with your Dad's wish: To a year with no sharp edges, and of course, L'chaim.
Marty (Mr. PJ)

donna said...

I'm not Jewish and have never heard of your dad's tradition of saying "no sharp edges and let's hope for a sweet new year", over a round challah and honey. I love it! I'm adopting the whole thing (maybe with some tweaking on the bread) for Dec. 31/Jan. 1. Happy New Year, friend!

Diane said...

What a beautiful post and fond memories. As you know, I haven't tried to go back 'home' for the holidays or stay at 1200 Fifth but of course I hold dear those memories and can visualize every aspect of it. When we carry on these traditions in our own home, I can see the table mom would set, and Dad sharing his blessings with us. I always feel their presence, but on these holidays even more so. On a small strip of green paper, I have mom's recipe for her green lime jello mold. One of these days I'll make it.
You're off to a wonderful 5770 - traipsing around NYC, playing tennis, going to weddings... it's the best new year's gift I could have. Love, Diane

hockeychic said...

L'Shanah Tovah!

Howard said...

Lovely post Ronni. L'Shanah Tovah.

PJ said...

Yes, let's avoid any sharp edges, especially when we're low on platelets. As for sweetness, we deserve a lot of that, even if it can't be honey (forbidden to the newly transplanted).

Your trip sounded wonderful. Keep taking these little jaunts and reporting back to us your memories and observations.

susiegb said...

Loved the comment about 'aging baby boomers' - though I refuse to think of myself as aging!!

And they were good days - really wonderful ... :) But I'm happy to have them as memories.

Sounds like you've been having a lovely summer with lots of little outings!