I am from it’s the season of Dad stressed sermon-writing and Mom making brisket and freezing applesauce and baking Marian Burros’ plum cake.
I’m from red and blue Flair pens for editing with lots of marks between the lines of those sermons and the Foley Food Mill coming out of the closet, three turns forward and one backward so it doesn’t get stuck when making the applesauce.
I’m from meeting Grandma and Grandpa with Dad and Jackie at Mountain Station when the Erie Lackawanna train, dusty and brown, chugs in so they can emerge gently down the big step with their valise, and with the chopped liver wrapped in fourteen layers of waxed paper and foil, and cookies from William Greenberg bakery in their hands.
I’m from everyone getting dressed for temple and Dad leaving very early wearing a white shirt of course! for yontif and Grandma telling me I need pearls with that.
I’m from Rosh Hashanah lunch of brisket and that applesauce and plum cake with family friends of a lifetime on a table set with Mom’s timeless Royal Copenhagen white china and break fast that’s just us exhausted at the table with bagels and Nova and chive cheese because company is just too much for Dad after a day on the bimah.
I’m from coming home Yom Kippur afternoon and Mom going back to temple for Yizkor – “What’s that?” we kids wondered – and then us for Neilah with other kids for the final shofar sounding.
I’m from rabbinic student pulpits in interesting places but away from families and eating holiday meals at Luby’s in Forth Smith or with friends on the Upper West Side.
I’m from ordination that brings me to Chicago and away from family more and learning to create my own ritual, like those break fasts in Lakeview that had fifty people in my small apartment some of whom I’d never met and which were “the” social event of that holiday season.
I’m from becoming a parent and worrying about sermons and children’s tights and socks and dress shoes at the same time, and picking up chocolate chip challah rolls for after school snacking before getting dressed for temple.
I’m from taking over someone else’s grandma and aunt’s family tradition when the time was nigh and somehow making it mine with grace and a whole village of helping hands.
I’m from yes I do work holidays and while I finish writing, I hope to remember to order the challah and get kind family, friends and babysitters into my house to meet the food and set the tables because I too want to have a holiday meal at home.
I’m from missing Mom coming to town with a cooked frozen brisket in her suitcase and making applesauce in my kitchen and Dad in retirement still wearing a Brooks Brothers blue blazer with those flair pens in the pocket now used for editing my words and critiquing my homiletic endings.
And I’m from the hands of my parents that used those Flair pens and the Foley Food Mill in their preparations, the tools I now handle with love to channel their sacred work of ritual and inspiration.
With gratitude & inspiration from Neil Rigler & the 2023 NSCI Selichot writer-speakers & the poem “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon: http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html.