9:35—a beautiful autumn morning: Turning left to her drive, ten minutes ahead of schedule, I waited. No good could come from being early; this was history’s great lesson. Then…three hundred seconds later, resigned to the inevitable, I knocked.

“You’re early. Why are you early?”

(Rosh Hashana has predictable rhythm. A wondrous holiday, it enfolds (at
least in our clan), as a time of familial interaction set against the Shakespearian tragedy that is Aunt Helen. She is Lady MacBogart, a steely presence in an otherwise melodic family.)

At Kangesser by 10, we sat on the visitors’ 49 (away from the pulpit). Clearly outside the hash marks, close to the door, it was a great view of all who’d arrive late, leave early, or merely evaporate for the sermon.

“Where’s Harold?” she asked. “Why do you suppose he’s late?”

In a setting of peace and reflection, some of us were more spiritual than others:

“Rabbi Skoff’s in the other room,” she proclaimed (as if Balboa discovering the Pacific). Disconsolate, staring at a watch she couldn’t see, the lady listened to her second-string rabbi flanked by her second-string nephew.

“Do you see Harold?” came the reprise.

I tuned her out; it was too beautiful a morning. After all these years, High Holidays at Park remain special. Same prayers, same seats, same peace.

Comfort. Consistency. HOME.

“They’re here—let them in!” she urged. (I had already risen). .And so they were: Three Newmans, Amy, Renee, Margie and my brother. Yes, my brother—her “Moshiach,” had arrived.

Calm set; thoughts wandered…everywhere. To the ushers, the same ushers I’d seen for lo these many years: Jeff Schneider’s been standing there since puberty. He must own his tuxedo. Does he ever go home?

Same faces, same smiles, same hand-shakes.

Rochelle’s up front in the red zone…or at least her hat is. Can’t see the kids, but they’re probably under the hat. Fondly I recall the year Matthew told me my suit was wrinkled. Those were rough times for me, but he cared enough to be honest). Ah, but her chapeau—the year the roof leaked it kept the entire choir dry.

“See Larry?” asked Hal, pointing just past midfield. .”Do you think he looks like a piece of gefilte fish?” “Yeah,” I agreed, and “Cousin Sam looked like a baked potato”. Game on! Margie, (ever the voice of reason), abstained.

“Next time you go to the bathroom, let me know—I’ll go with you.” (said my aunt on my return).
“That would be inappropriate,” I replied.

The sermon came later—(both the rabbi’s and the aunt’s). In each case my body stayed but thoughts strayed…and strayed…By benediction I’d made three profound observations:

1. Park Synagogue was the only assemblage I attend where people don’t
consistently get younger than me.

2. Every reasonably attractive, age-appropriate female congregant was
wearing a wedding ring, and

3. Aunt Helen’s breath would be good for cleaning my bathtub.

“Should I drive Aunt Helen?” my brother offered as we rose to leave. I agreed, (this being his holiday too).

Freed up, I shot to the other end zone—saw my people, said my hellos. I was heavier this year and most of them seemed older. All of us, though, were still standing.

Walking out the front door I saw Cutler. He was under the canopy right where we greeted last year. And the year before. And probably the year before that.

“L’Shana Tova,” he smiled.
“A good year,” said I.

Bouncing down the hill to my car, I cherished the constancy of it all, reveled in the moment, and wondered just briefly if Cutler ever went home.

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