I have a dilemma about the Jewish New Year.
For every year as long as I can remember, my family went to Rosh Hashanah services in New York at the 92nd Street Y. We had a routine: a big family dinner at my parents’ apartment, the beautiful services the next day followed by a light lunch at the local Greek coffee shop, then a visit to my cousin Betsy’s on Long Island.
Dinner was accompanied by the traditional foods: a round challah for a year with no sharp edges, plus sweet food for a sweet New Year – honeydew melon, honey and honey cake.
When the kids came along, the tradition continued, with people sleeping on the floor in my parents’ two-bedroom apartment. I always loved returning to the “old country” on these occasions.
Now my parents are gone and the family is scattered. Joe is in school in Maine and couldn’t possibly make it. At Day +110, I couldn’t even think about going. Diane is going to services in Concord (Mass.) and then to lunch with her sister-in-law. Katie and I have been invited.
But Katie feels extremely connected to the New York services. Our cousins still go, and Ben, who lives in the area, will be able to join them.
I have arranged it so that Katie will be able to go. She is going to take a train to Penn Station tomorrow, and one of the cousins will pick her up. She will go to services, have the family dinner at a restaurant, and sleep over for two nights. Since there are not too many Jews in our area, school will remain open. She’ll miss two days, but she’ll make up the work, and I think this is more important.
I am not an observant Jew, but I feel deeply connected to the traditions. But I am still in semi-quarantine. Since I am past 100 days, I am now allowed to go into peoples’ homes and eat their food. I could, conceivably, go to Concord, not for services but for lunch. The “crowd” there is lively, it would be nice to be with Diane, and the food is great. But the drive is close to two hours. I’d be fine going there, but I’m sure I would be tired on the way back. And then there is the problem of germs. I really don’t want to get sick and endanger my progress.
I could also stay home, make a round challah, and share it with some friends. We could say some blessings. I might feel more sadness this way, but a little sadness wouldn’t kill me. I could listen to that meditation CD that I still haven’t unwrapped. I could commune with my parents.
I have been trying to tune in to my parents’ voices. I feel that my mother, especially, often speaks to me. I’m feeling a little static here when I try to listen. But I think she’s saying, “Don’t go. You’ll be exhausted. Stay home and think your thoughts.”
Either way, I will have the satisfaction of having worked it out for Katie.
I had a similar experience on her 16th birthday, which was in July. She really wanted to go to New York to see “[Title of Show],” a new show whose development she had been following. We went on the Internet and bought tickets for her and a friend, and the two of them took the train to New York. My cousin Jeanne met them and went to the show with them and her daughter, Amanda. Ben and his girlfriend joined them for a birthday dinner that I hosted in absentia. Jeanne did a great job of helping to put it all together.
I was sorry that I couldn’t be there, but I felt great about having facilitated it. When Katie came home, we had a cake. She also had a group of friends over, and I spent most of the night in my room, hiding from germs. But I did swoop in every now and then, and I enjoyed the sound of their laughter.
I guess it’s a matter of figuring out different ways of staying connected. It’s still a work-in-progress.