I did something this year I had not done since 1998 when our youngest child, Ellie, went off to college, making Gilda and me empty nesters. To celebrate the festival of Sukkot, I once again erected our Sukkah. (For those not familiar with the terminology, Sukkot is the Festival of Tabernacles; a Sukkah is a temporary structure in which one eats, and some sleep in, during the eight days of the holiday which, in part, commemorates the nomadic housing the Israelites lived in after their exodus from Egypt.)
Being home full-time gave me the luxury of leisurely building the Sukkah. One day the speed-rail frame went up, the next day the cotton sides, and the third day the lattice roof and decorations, mostly hanging plastic fruit.
It was a far cry from the frenzied but fun construction crunch of the early 1980s when more than half a dozen families with young children together put up wood-frame Sukkot on our respective yards and topped off the day with a big Sukkah party at one of our homes.
Amidst all the joy of this holiday, and it truly is one of the more joyous on the Jewish calendar, is the sad reminder that almost 20 years ago Sukkot marked our group’s passage from idyllic suburban life to the reality that tragedy cannot be locked outside our community. For it was then that one of our tightly-knit group passed away on the first day of Sukkot after a long illness. Michael was several years younger than me. Indeed, he once was a camper of mine in summer sleepaway camp.
He was universally liked and admired. And his friends still miss him.