Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
As the holidays approach, I begin to prepare. I pull out all the cookbooks to see what new and exciting recipe I can create for the family. I walk through the house, planning the layout. We’ll have to pull out the plastic tables and folding chairs to set up in our great room for people to sit and eat. The beautiful table in our dining room, where we usually eat, is used as a buffet to accommodate everyone at the new year.
That dining room table always plays an important role. It’s just a table, but it’s the dining room table where I ate every holiday meal as a child.
When my parents downsized their home 15 years ago, that table was shipped to me in California, where I was living at the time. My own young family was using a hand-me-down table back then, and not nearly as nice of a hand-me-down; these beautiful pieces of furniture – the table and chairs and matching buffet— were a wonderful reminder of home. Even if we couldn’t be with the rest of the family for the holidays, I would have a little piece of Mississippi with me.
Fast forward a few years, and the table and my family returned to Mississippi. But we hardly used the table in Mississippi for holidays and family events anymore, because our extended family had grown far beyond the max of 12 seating arrangements – my siblings and I all had spouses and children, and then some of those children got married, and there were just too many of us to fit at one large table. A great problem to have! We had to use the portable tables and folding chairs as our meals included family and friends — but that table was still at the center of the action, bearing the food and greeting the guests.
But not this year. This year – with those ever-growing-older children not all coming home for the holidays… there will be 11 of us sitting around the table for Rosh Hashanah. It is a table where there has always been laughter and joy. Good food was consumed – the specials of the holiday – noodle kugel, brisket and the like (I must admit – gone are the days of the Jell-O molds that frequented our holiday celebrations in the 1970s).
Life moves in cycles. Our table was once too big for us, then we became too big for it, and now we fit almost exactly in its seats… and in future years, with grandkids and the ongoing cycle of celebrations, we will outgrow it again. Meanwhile, we keep the table and we keep traditions. For instance, my brother has taken on the role that my uncle used to play with my mom. He would clean his plate and then comment that the meal was “just okay” this year. My brother now says that to me, and I’m more than just okay with that. It’s part of the tradition of those of us sitting around the table – the table that symbolized generations of family and dear friends who were always welcome there.
May this upcoming year of 5776 be a good year for everyone – I hope we all find a table of family, fellowship and comfort to share.
Pronounced: roshe hah-SHAH-nah, also roshe ha-shah-NAH, Origin: Hebrew, the Jewish new year.