Wednesday, October 1, 2008

There are many ways to observe a holiday

I still have hydrangeas! They beautified the holiday table.

Yesterday, the Jewish New Year, I was reminded that there are many ways of staying connected.

In the previous post, I talked about wanting to go to relatives’, yet, at Day+110, being worried about germs and fatigue.

I decided to stay put. Just because I’m now allowed to go into other peoples’ homes, I still should be cautious. I want to thank everyone who called, e-mailed, posted comments or reminded me in person that I would be OK if I stayed home.

I also decided that I would invite friends over for a little holiday meal Tuesday night. In keeping with my theory that doing something different keeps your mind off your troubles, I planned to make the traditional round challah from scratch. Also on my menu would be Nach Waxman’s beef brisket, from “The New Basics” cookbook by Silver Palate authors Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.

When I got the ingredients, I also purchased a honeydew melon and honey cake for a sweet New Year.

Monday after school, I put Katie on the train to New York, where our cousin Serena would meet her and go with her to services the next day. (How did parents do it without cell phones? We talked after she switched trains in New Haven and after Serena met her at Penn Station.)

Then I took a walk and thought about the past and the present. As I said before, I'm not especially religious, though I do like to think I'm spiritual. As I walked around the beautiful lake across the street on the Mount Holyoke campus, I worked on quieting the chatter in my mind, which gave me a greater feeling of connection.

I went home and did the first step in making the brisket, which I would continue cooking on Tuesday. My cousin Betsy’s husband Michael had reminded me via e-mail of a basic reason I shouldn’t go anywhere: “An important concept in Jewish law is to sustain your health and all else gives way to that.” He said they would put me on speaker phone at the holiday dinner I used to attend with my parents.

That night, while the homey smell of cooking brisket filled my kitchen, I “participated” in the holiday dinner being held in Queens. I listened, and talked, via speaker, while they said a few prayers for the holiday and a “misha beirach” prayer for healing in my name and that of another relative who has been ill. Then they passed the phone and I talked to everyone.

Meanwhile Katie and Serena had met Ben and the rest of the New York contingent at a restaurant. (Hmmm, I guess I should say “Manhattan contingent,” but to me Manhattan is New York.) They passed the phone around and I talked to everyone there.

Having already made it through Monday without experiencing what my sister calls the “bare light bulb feeling,” I started out Tuesday in a good mood. First, I exercised. (OK, true confession, I played tennis.) Then I sort of lollygagged with the newspaper, until my mother’s voice told me, “If you’re going to have people over, you need to GET GOING.” Right. I made the challah and was quite proud when I braided it and it did indeed look like a challah.

Phone calls came from the 212 area – my parents’ friends wishing me a healthy and happy New Year.

I set the table with care, picking the lingering blue and purple hydrangeas from my garden. I put out my mother’s plates with the pretty flower design. My friends Deb and Mary came, as did Mary’s son, AJ, and her husbnd, Jerry. We lit a candle and said the blessings. As I cut into the challah, I heard my father explaining, as he loved to do, “The challah is round for a year with no sharp edges.”

The dinner conversation was lively and filled with good cheer.

I did not feel alone at all.


PJ said...

Sounds like your new year got off to a great start. I too baked a challah, but served roast chicken instead of my usual brisket. My husband and sons went to services. I retired from synagogue after my youngest's bar mitzvah 3 years ago. What you say about there being many ways to observe is so true.

Susan C said...

Sounds like a lovely celebration, Ronni.

May you have a sweet new year!

Ann said...

Ronni, I'm so glad you had friends over. Maybe you could start a new tradition until you're cleared to return to the comforts of memory? I'm always checking on you.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like YOU put together a very wonderful and memorable celebration for you your friends. Bravo! Not just you but your guests will have special memories of yesterday.

I felt quite hungry after reading what you prepared. Supper for me on 6D last night was: 8 Ritz crackers, 2 Saltine crackers, 1/2 broken chocolate covered pretzel and about 10 pistachio nuts. Yummy!

Ronni, it sounded wonderful !

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year, Ronni. Your celebration sounds like a feast for the soul.


Anonymous said...

Shana Tova!

Good choice to hang low. I am at approximately 275 days since my last chemo and been told to still steer clear of people with bad germs. I did not go through the receiving line at the end of Rosh Hashana services to shake clergy and Board member hands. I did not go around kissing everyone, even on the cheek.

I will try to pick it up next year, because dangit , it is GOING to be a better and healthier new year!

As many people have said to me, I say to you---may the new year be a healthier year than the last!

Anonymous said...

The holidays can definitely be a time of both happiness and sadness.