Missing Rosh Hashanah

Today Fidel, who is laying tile in my basement, said the weather feels like winter in Puerto Vallarta, and he is homesick. I know how he feels.

It does not feel like winter in Louisville, it feels like Fall. It feels like it is time to put on a new dress and tights and walk to shul. As a child I received two new dresses a year, for the high holidays. Everything else was a hand-me-down from my older sister and/or saved from the year before. We weren’t poor, but I was tiny and I never grew, everything always fit. I still remember my 6th grade Rosh Hashana dress. A silvery-purplish-grey wool jumper with subtle purple and blue threads woven throughout. The skirt was full enough to twirl and lined so that it wasn’t itchy. I spent services that day tracing the purple and blue threads on my skirt.

I would like to be wearing that dress. I would like to walk to shul with my family, day dreaming about the rare treat of afternoon TV I’ll get later that day. I’d like to sit in my assigned seat in the smaller sanctuary, where on the first day of Rosh Hashanah we get the guest rabbi and our own cantor. I’d like to see my pediatrician in front of me and that weird old man with the nose hairs on the end of the row. I would like to catch my best friend’s eye and in a carefully orchestrated dance not leave at the exact same time and then meet to go hang out in the bride’s room and watch the older girls and younger women primp in the mirror.

I would like to see my first crush, a boy ten years older than me, the son of my first and favorite Hebrew School teacher. She would whisper to me, “Don’t worry, one day he won’t be so old and you can be my daughter.” But of course, he grew up before me and married someone else. She told my mother to tell me when they divorced, and then a few years later he died of leukemia.

I do not want to go to my own temple today. I like the rabbi. He is my age and smart, and kind and thoughtful, I consider him a friend. He does not waste his biggest audience of the year with sermons against intermarriage or for Israel, as the rabbi I grew up with did. He talks about social justice and spirituality, topics that should be discussed on the holidays. Still I sit there bored, longing to be a teenager sneaking out for a cigarette.

This summer I had a bit of a tiff with the temple over a change in their education policy. It has brought up for me all the things I am missing. These things are not the temple’s fault but it has made it clear to me that this temple is not my home and it is not my children’s home. My 6th grader will not go to services today in a lovely new dress to sit on scratchy wool seats. Instead, she has gone off to school. There is no bride’s room or place for young girls to congregate and giggle, and if there were, she has no one with whom to giggle. School is her home and she does not want to miss a day to sit on a folding chair in the back of a cold room for two hours.

Last night I made a honey cake but I cannot go to that temple and long for home.

So today Fidel will work in the basement and I will work upstairs in the study he built me and we will both dream of warmer climates.

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