I was a little surprised by my children’s reactions to the rebuilding of our sukkah this year. Every year has been met with some level of wonderment and suprise as well as excitement. This year…. there was recognition. They had very clear expectations of what it looked like, where it would go, certain decorations, and even our annual problems with it.
As I was scrambling to get ready for yet another 3 days of yom tov in a row, I considered why this made any impression on me at all. They aren’t babies anymore was the most obvious and immediate thought.
Then I stopped to realize that I have now lived in this house longer than I have lived anywhere since I was sixteen and we left my childhood home in Connecticut. My parents moved to Boston at the beginning of my junior year which felt like a death sentence to me at the time. My life was my friends, and leaving that behind was unimaginable. Rather than put down new roots for the remaining two years of high school, I chose to spend part of 12th grade in Israel. This led to many years of moving; three years at university in Canada, a brief return to Boston, and then aliyah. I had thought for many years that once I had settled in Jerusalem that that was it. The end. Enough wandering.
First I would find a job. (I did.) Then I would find a husband. ( I did.) Then I would find a nice house in a nice Israeli suburb, settle in, and never leave. That part wasn’t exactly what Hashem had in mind. So I moved to New Jersey, and took a while to settle here in the amazing community in which we live.
Time has passed and many babies have been born, thank G-d. I have been busy with much and don’t pause to consider how long we have been here. I DO spend time “counting down” until Israel, but that clearly has distracted me from the roots that have been planted and grown here.
I think there is something wonderful about the wonderment and surprise of the sukkah box that emerges each year. I am also enjoying this phase of recognition. The familiarity is becoming part of their holiday experiences, as ritual is intended to be.
This is just one piece of a much larger adjustment to a new phase. After over a decade of “making babies”, my husband and I daily come upon some new aspect of having a house full of children, not infants and toddlers. For example, we both took a nap at the same time on Shabbat. Imagine that.
How does this change sukkot? Well, their expectations of us have changed, since they now have expectations for the holiday and its routine. Certain decorations from year to year have become important to them. Sleeping in the sukkah with a specific set-up matters. (Even at the expense of hundreds of mosquito bites, apparently.) Our sukkah door, (which I photographed and tried but failed to upload here ), must be added to every year, according to certain parameters not only not determined by me, but for the most part I am not even privy to.
This means I get to adjust my expectations too; children old enough to recognize so much from year to year are definitely old enough to start helping get ready for the holidays in a BIG way. : )