Sukkot is the holiday where I feel the cyclical nature of a lunar calendar the most. The date weaves between Indian Summer and the true onset of fall like a drunken frat boy, with each extreme bringing its own pleasures and miseries. When the holiday falls too early, I am forced to share the sukkah with my mortal enemies, the flying insects in the order Hymenoptera. Too late in the season, and all I can think of is how Bob Dylan must have written “Shelter From the Storm” right after saying “leishev baSukkah”.
This is my first year of not having a halachic sukkah. Since moving out, I had wondered how to handle the issue. It’s no secret that I typically spend a cumulative total of 10 minutes in the sukkah each year; long enough to light a candle, eat a bite of food, and declare “I don’t have any obligation to be here!” before fleeing from dive bombing yellow jackets or golfball sized hail. So purchasing an official sukkah of my own seemed a waste.
Still, I enjoy all of the ancillary activities, like hanging undecipherable gan pictures on the walls, and buying up Christmas tree lights like it was December 26th back in the old country. So, as a kind of compromise, I decided to build an indoor sukkah this year. I bought one of those popup gazebos and spent two days trying to put it up before deciding that the instructions might have some merit after all.
During the installation process, I learned that my younger daughter might turn into a good retirement plan, as she was able to decipher how to build the shelter based entirely upon a line drawing that could have been a sketch of an M. C. Escher painting. Can you say engineer?
After the sukkah (or tent, as the kids eventually settled on for a description) was upright, decorating commenced. There was a flurry of competition for scissors, paper, crayons, and string, and I soon learned that school supplies purchased in September don’t stand much of a chance of making it through October in our household. The sukkah finery was completed as the time for candle lighting drew near, just as the first angry exclamations from outside began. Apparently, Sukkot in October in Hadera means thunderstorms.
Warm and dry, our Sukkot indoors went well, until on the afternoon of the next day, a particularly nasty battle over a swivel chair ended with my older daughter exclaiming, “Mom, she’s sticking up her middle finger at me!”
I looked at my younger daughter quizzically. She beamed at me and said glibly, “What?! I was just scratching my nose! What’s the big deal which finger I use?!”
I was torn between annoyance and amusement. Although I did not for one second believe that she was only using the finger to relieve an itch, I thought back to when I was in third grade. During school bus trips, we used to dare each other to take off our gloves and place them against the windows with the middle finger extended. We had no idea what it meant, but the reaction we got from the surrounding drivers was priceless. I decided to avoid that kind of positive feedback loop. I turned to my elder daughter and explained that ignoring the finger in this case was the better part of valor.
To clear the air (and completely unrelated to the headache that was slowly developing deep inside my skull), I packed off all four kids with cake to eat in their father’s halachicly acceptable sukah, and laid down to take a nap. Approximately twenty minutes later, my oldest daughter came back inside clutching her hand. After a brief inspection, and an explanation about a run-in with some aggressive playground equipment, I decided that this was more than I could handle with a first aid kit, and I drove off for the local hospital.
After about an hour of bloodwork, stitches, and x-rays, we discovered that not only had my daughter middle finger been cut, but that the tip had also been broken, and that she would need to be admitted for a few days of IV antibiotics. She gave an excited rendition of everyone she intended to call with the news, and practically did a victory dance when I confirmed that she was the first kid in the family to suffer a broken bone (although now that I think about it, our youngest had a broken collarbone at birth, but I don’t think that it’s quite the same thing, so I won’t spoil her fun).
The best part? With her middle finger bandaged like a fat white sausage, my daughter waved her hand around and told me how she was now able to give the middle finger better than anyone.
It’s going to be a long holiday.