Two brothers stood by the rock– eyes tilted 45 degrees upward – studying faces of exiting congregants. Impatiently (not unlike Pennsylvanians look annually for Punxsutawney Phil), they awaited emergence of their father’s bald head. It was Rosh Hashana (in the fifties), and innocent.

My bride did a great job last Sunday. Diligently, like a balabuste from a time gone by, she had prepped in the kitchen. Brisket (with carrots, of course), chicken (one tray dark, one tray white), kugel, soup…

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

‘ Took Helen shopping late morning. “Garbage time”, I figured. Why not get it out of the way? Thrilled she was, to get out of her house — ‘though fact is that six hours pre-Harold she was already salivating at the mere thought of His presence. Moreover, as well she knew (translate: demanded), the hallowed chair at Hal’s elbow would be hers for the evening.

“Are you sorry you won’t be joining us?” she asked barely out of the driveway.

I napped through the Browns’ game on purpose. More “garbage time”, if you ask me. Carrie’d found comfort in the kitchen while I’d found the same in the bedroom. The world was in place.

Never was there down time back then. Our parents’ sixties’ divorce meant hopscotch each New Years. Lunch at Grandma Bogart’s … dinner at Grandma Cele’s … and of course the compulsory oral exams:

“Did you say hello to Ruth and Leon?” (from my father).
“Did you shake his hand?” (the follow-up).
“Did go to Kangesser and see Aunt Ruthie?” from my mother. (Ed. Note 1: Never could she let go of her hang-up about the Bogarts sitting under the dome and her family being in the other chapel).
“I didn’t see your father there,” (our Mom again, annually). “Is he in town?”

The trickle began once I woke: Carrie’s kids, grandkids, mother, brother Jan… friends … It was holiday, and with food on the table, the NFL on TV, and toddlers to play with, it was all it could be….

Leesa was first to leave – with me driving. Taking CJ’s car (for the radio, of course. What better than the simcha of Stern?), it was top open to the cooling breezes of the autumns of Yom Tov’s past. I was alone with my thoughts — or so I thought.

Ed. Note 2: Never again will I underestimate just how well she knows me.

“I’m flat,” I submitted, (as I knocked with four points).
“It’s holiday. You miss your kids,” (she said, dealing).

It was 10:15 and the lady of my life? How she’d nailed it!  Picture, I did, Max and Eli in the pastures of New York. Hear, I did, the sound of Lucy’s shofar tooting on the phone — thrilling even still to Ruby’s cry in the background. And think I did, very hard, of both Hailey and Matthew.

Not much later she caught a “no-brainer” and won. It was only a game. “Flat” as I was, alas, as we head to the bedroom I felt nothing but grateful.

For my children and theirs, and the lady beside me,
And for the picture — pristine pure — of my father’s bald head.

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