This is going to be a tricky Jewish New Year around my house. I talked with the children again about Rosh Hashanah, the forgettable Jewish holiday in the worldview of the under 12 set. My offspring value neither apples with honey nor lengthy Hebrew recitations, so Rosh Hashanah is not-too-affectionately known as, "the boring one."
I'd like to chalk it up to their affinity for latkes, nightly candle lighting, building tree shelters, and matzoh ball soup; none of which are associated with this holiday. But the truth is that I have happy children. Change and regret have not become part of their daily lives. They feel no need to ritualize loss and hope. They're happy little Zen masters most hours of every day except when it's time to clean their bodies or their rooms. Or, G-d forbid, they accidentally touch each other. (That's their orthodox streak coming out.)
I love Rosh Hashanah. For years I spent the weeks coming into the holiday with a little book called Preparing Your Heart for the High Holy Days. I'd meditate and pray and read stuff and be an all around bore about it. Good times.
As I aged and suffered more losses, the metaphor of the books of life and death and who will be inscribed in which became more and more meaningful. The literal image is a nightmare, but coming to an understanding that we all have a limited amount of seasons has been transformative. I enjoy the meditative mood of the holiday, and the days of awe are aptly named for me. But try telling that little soliloquy to 8 and 11 year olds.
So there we were in the chapel where I give all of my spiritual guidance (the car) and I shared with the Buddha babies my incredibly brilliant, thoughtful, and laudable idea to celebrate this year with the kid-appropriate ritual adapted from Tashlikh. Smartly, I didn't put it that way.
"So what we will do is tramp down to the Mighty Mighty James River and write what we want to change about ourselves on biodegradable paper and then we will cast them into the river and watch them float away!"
My son gave his diplomatic nod which means, "I am still young enough to refrain from derisive snorting. Revel in these days, madre."
My daughter declared decisively, "But I don't wanna change."
How is it that the parenting coup of raising happy people from scratch becomes a mega-fail in celebrating my most favorite-ist holiday? Crap. Being a responsible, spiritual adult on my own is hard. Raising up little spiritual chicklets in my personal direction is a bear. Zen masters aren't necessarily good little devout Jews. That's fine with me. Well-adjusted Unitarian Universalist kids.
With that goal in mind I took the puddins to the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Glen Allen yesterday. They had a great program planned and the sermonizer was rumored to be tolerable. You know what that means. Yeah, I was preaching. I led the children's worship talking about Tashlikh and how Rosh Hashanah is happening during the start of the new school year. Thanks to the tepid reaction of my own offspring on the subject, I mixed it up a little for child-relevance sake. I invited the children, of whom my daughter was one, to think of changes in their school life they wish for this year. One wanted to be better in math, another in English. One was positively, absolutely NOT going to be bullied. (Amen to that!) My daughter had her hand up for awhile.
"Yes, madame. What will you be changing this year?"
I'm stumped. Her grades are good. She's a happy puppy and she already has made it clear that change is not on her mind. Then my daydreaming began. Oh, please please please let her vow to become a morning person. Or an overwhelming desire to wash all the dishes from now on. Pleeeeeease.
"I'm going to quit choir this year!" She announced with triumph.
"What? This..." Not mornings. Not dishes. Yes change. Poop. "(Stammer). You... (sputter)," finally I had to drop the Rev. and just be Mama right up in there in front of everyone. "Choir? Really? Darn it. And this is how you tell me? In front of dozens of witnesses. You..." I was thinking how lovely her little voice was practicing "Man in the Mirror" last year. Then I remembered she didn't actually sing half the songs at the concert, just looked nauseous and well-behaved in the front row. Sigh.
"Well played, little bird. Well played. Way to embrace change." I high fived her.
The little church pumpkins then commenced telling scraps of paper their secrets for transformation and metamorphosis and throwing them in a "river" (wheelchair ramp) by the pulpit. I whispered "Fear" into mine as I had told the children I would, and tossed it high. My daughter gleefully threw the choir away. While the others tossed bad grades and bullies down the ramp with flourish, some huzzahs, and even a bit of dancing with celebratory fist pumping, one little curly haired cherub came up to me. I bent down to her and she cupped her hand around my ear, whispering, "I'm not going to be afraid any more either. Just like you." If that isn't an engraved invitation into the days of awe...
So this is how we will be doing Rosh Hashanah this year. I'll be praying in services and my secret prayer spots for two days, then we'll all tramp down to the riverside. I will prayerfully put my hopes for the New Year on a piece of thin paper and ceremoniously toss it in the river. My little imps are welcome to make boats, swans, airplanes, arrows, rockets, or whatever else they desire to celebrate the New Year in whatever way they want. They can include secrets, hopes, pet peeves, or name the projectiles George, as long as they send them soaring. Whatever they choose, I doubt it will be boring. Shanah Tovah, y'all!