We’re going home for the holidays.
No, not to the homes where we have long ago memories of a slew of chattering aunts and uncles and cousins crowded around the table. The scent of chicken soup and matzah balls, brisket and kugel, wafting from the kitchen, my grandma standing sentry over the stove, a plate of griebens – fried cracklings and onions -a forshpeiz – appetizer -to nibble when we arrived.
Nor are we going to the homes where we grew up, the suburban Cape Cod cottages or 1950s split levels of our parents, with grass and trees in the front, tomatoes growing in the back, where the holiday menus were the same, though the chairs filled with the grandmas and grandpas, those who kibbitzed in Yiddish and sipped hot tea from yahrzeit glasses, were now empty.
Nor to our own homes, the ones we bought when we moved East coast to West, where we learned to make holidays on our own, the seats filled not only with relatives but with a tribe of friends who had become family, menus updated, dishes more healthful, but the same tumult, as guests arrived, and we added an extra chair or two around the table.
Always room for one more.
But the years have passed, our children are scattered, our friends are sitting around holiday tables in far flung places as their families, too, have grown and so have their families.
We’ve spent many holidays in Phoenix since, sometimes with a kid or two, sometimes with little ones to dip apples in honey, to listen to the blasts of the shofar, to reminisce about holidays past as we made memories anew.
But this year it is time to go home.
To spend the holidays with our children, and their children, in their homes and around their tables. To give them the honor of making the holiday, to plan and to shop, to cook and to bake, to make sure we have enough food and enough chairs, to make sure we have wine for kiddush and candles to light. To allow us to savor the true joy of the holiday.
So while I’ll miss some of the frenzy of making holidays in our home, I’ll also resist arriving laden with round challot and rugelach, jelly cookies and apple cake. I’ll travel light, packing only these precious memories in my carry on. And I’ll relax and enjoy what really matters.
And I’ll whisper the words of the Shehecheyanu when we arrive and are greeted by those well loved and loving faces.
“Thank you, Gd, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.”
And may the new year be as sweet as this day.