Monday, October 09, 2006

(just some lil' life stories)

Early morning, getting us all ready to take an early flight out to visit the in-laws. My son is waking kinda slowly and crankily, and he whines as I put on his shoes and socks:
"Mommy, where's the suitcase Daddy brought to the car and put in the trunk?"
Me: "You just answered your own question, little man."
Him: "Oh."
He thinks a second, then smiles. "That was funny, wasn't it?" he says, slyly.

We return from our travel to California, my son and I, faced with Jewish holiday number three: Sukkot, the first of the harvest holidays and the festival of booths, commemorating the wanderings of the mixed multitude of Egyptian evacuees from Pharaoh's tyranny and the temporary structures in which they stayed. For the first time since I was a young 'un, we have a home sukkah to put up, and I set it up on our second story porch just outside our big picture windows. Everyone has to bend down to get through a big window, out of the house, and onto the porch, but the sukkah fits onto the porch and is easy to put up.

Since the sukkah came with everything (sides, roofing, and poles) except for the fruit and vegetable decorations and supports for the roof mat, I have to drag my son out to the hardware store to get 1 inch by 2 inch by 8 foot supports, and to the grocery store to pick up some produce for hanging. At the Lowe's we go to, he is enthralled with the inflatable giant snow globe Christmas decorations that are on sale. At Whole Foods, we are surrounded by food being sold as autumn decorations, and various types of squash and pumpkins on sale for eating and Halloween carving.

Once we get home, however, the roof is on the top and the produce is hanging from the ceiling, and my son loves it the most. We have a religiously-sanctioned kids' playhouse, in his book, and he calls out to our neighbors to come in and see the sukkah (he says suuue-kah), thus taking to heart the other mitzvah involved in the celebration of Sukkot: the welcoming of Ushpizin, or guests, into the sukkah for the week-long life of the structure. One sukkah wall even has a "treatment of guests" silkscreened on it in Hebrew, proclaiming that ushpizin must be treated as the Jewish patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as Jacob's son Joseph, as Moses and Aaron who brought us out of Egypt, and as King David. It seems we have found our oasis from seasonal and Christian consumerism between the walls of a 6 by 8 foot temporary hut.

Of course my husband thinks we should have pulled down some banana leaves from our backyard trees and stuck them on the roof instead of the bamboo mat that is up there now, but hey, there's always next year...

After I finished teaching religious school yesterday, we headed off, as a family, to our rabbi's home to enjoy refreshments, his backyard sukkah, the Moon Bounce he had for the kids in the front yard, and the company of others. We also end up watching the Saints beat the Buccaneers by three. My husband commented on how warm and inviting the rabbi's house was. Our sukkah party host became the rabbi of our New Orleans congregation last year, just before the hurricane hit, and he and his wife both are a great fit to our community. The contrast between our new rabbi and our rabbi emeritus was put into even greater relief as a result.

Some people want that respectable distance between their rabbi's private and public lives. Some rabbis want that, too. Our rabbi emeritus was embracing people who wanted that more spiritual, and personal, approach to their clergy, but his overall demeanor still held them at arm's length. That distance became greater when he left his position as pulpit rabbi, making way for our current rabbi, who has a young family of three kids, and whose wife is also a rabbi. Katrina's passing may well have thrown our current rabbi and his congregation much closer together than any other new rabbi and congregation ever - I don't hear as many people kvetching about the differences between the old and new rabbis as I thought I would. The man and his family are a darn good fit for this community at this time and place. May it ever be so, as the priestly blessing is echoed...

My neighbors took care of our pets recently while we were away, and they took in my dog, Gilda, quite literally. She hung out with the family and the dogs and cats next door, but our neighbor detected a need for solitude in my dog, which I could have spelled out right off. She's pushing eight or nine years old, my dog, and she does get some excitement from hassling our cats every so often, but she thoroughly enjoys being the only dog, and she loves people. That need for solitude, though, is what truly makes her MY DOG. If people can look like their animals, and vice versa, there's something to be said for like personalities between people and their familiars.

Gilda and I are even more alike than I thought.

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