Rivka stood in the yard, and looked around. She didn't often manage to get up and dressed before her littles were also up and demanding her attention, but it was definitely worth the extra effort today. Fall was her favorite time of year. The leaves were just beginning to turn, and fall also meant that the fall holidays, Rosh Hashanah, Tzom Gedaliah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, and Simchas Torah, were not far away. It made for a very busy three weeks, and a lot of meals to plan and cook, but she loved it. Now, where should they put the sukkah? They had used the driveway last year, but it was an inconvenience to have to park the car elsewhere, the driveway wasn’t quite flat, and last year’s storm with its strong winds had blown the sukkah down and damaged some of the wall panels.
While she was standing there, Chaim pulled into the driveway, home from morning services. “Rivka, you’re up early!”
“Good morning, Chaim! I was just trying to figure out where the sukkah is going to go this year, before I get caught up in all the cooking and planning and Sukkos sneaks up on us.”
“I’ve been thinking about that,” replied Chaim. “I was thinking that since we’re working with fewer panels this year, we’d put it in front of the house. Use the house itself as one of the four walls. You know our sages teach us that the minimum is 2 walls and a bit of a third, but I feel much more secure when the sukkah has 4 walls.”
“Chaim, you know that’s the whole point of Sukkos! We ‘move’ out of the house into a flimsy hut to remember that God is really in charge, not us. He’s the one keeping us safe, not our walls of brick and mortar.”
“Yes, I know, but I’ll still feel better with 4 walls.”
“So, which wall of the house?” Rivka asked.
“Maybe in front of the door? But then we can’t use that door for the whole week, because once you stand on the steps, the bamboo poles that make up the s’chach of the sukkah roof will be too low to exit or enter the house without ducking.”
“That doesn’t work then,” said Rivka. “Any other ideas?”
Chaim paused. “Why not?”
Rivka laughed at him. “Because, silly, it’s a fire hazard!”
“So let’s not have any fires?” At Rivka’s withering glance, Chaim changed tactics. “Ok, so my next thought . . . was over here.”
Together they walked to in front of the big bay windows. And the lilac bush and the rhododendron. Rivka looked confused. “It can’t go here, there’s no room for tables and chairs!”
Chaim took a deep breath, and suggested, “I think we’ll need to take out the rhododendron. It’s not the healthiest plant anyway, and there’s an oak tree trying to grow through it. We’ll chop that down too.”
“And my lilac?”
Chaim started to suggest getting rid of that as well, then had second thoughts when he looked at Rivka. The rhododendron was there when they moved in 5 years ago, but she had planted the lilac the spring before last. “We can transplant it?”
Rivka thought for a moment, then nodded. “Ok,” she said, “I’ll scope out a different place in the yard for it, but you have to dig it up.” Noticing Chaim looking at her warily, she smiled. “I know what you’re thinking,” she teased. “That was too easy. But I care about the sukkah too, and this is really the best place for it. If I have to, I’ll buy a new lilac and start over.”
“Mama?” They both looked up. Suri, their 4 year old, was standing in the doorway. “The baby’s up and wants you!” Rivka thanked her and hurried inside.
Just a few weeks later, right after Yom Kippur, Chaim retrieved a saw from the basement and headed out to the front yard. “Rivka,” he called, “Can you help me with this?”
“With what?” she asked, popping her head out the front door with the baby in her arms and 3 more kids trailing behind her.
“Umm, never mind. You look busy.”
“No, I can help. Just give me a few minutes. Good thing the weather is nice!” Within a minute, Rivka had retrieved the stroller from the front coat closet, and set it up at a safe distance. She plopped the baby in it and told the other children to wait there. She then ducked back inside, returning a few minutes later with the fold-up picnic table and a box of craft supplies.
“Mama, what are we doing?” asked Suri. Ari, two and a half, didn’t take his thumb out of his mouth long enough to ask, but he looked curious too.
Nachi thought he knew. He was 5 and big enough for half-day kindergarten. “Are we making Sukkah decorations? We did that with my Morah! She’s laminating them. How are we going to laminate our decorations? If we don’t laminate them, the rain will ruin them!”
Rivka laughed. “Yes, we’re making Sukkah decorations. Different ones than your teacher did with you, though. Some of them don’t need laminating, like the foam shapes and beads on plastic string. And we can try putting tape over the construction paper for the paper chains, but maybe it won’t rain this year. I guess if it does rain and they get destroyed, it will mean we can make new ones for next year. If all our decorations lasted years, we wouldn’t have room for new ones! Suri, sweetie, go inside and drag Tamar out of her book so that she can come supervise you and help with the cutting and stapling.”
Tamar was 9, but that was old enough to supervise with her parents right there. She came right out when she heard there was crafting to do. Rivka spent a little more time explaining the projects to Tamar, as well as which items should be kept away from Ari and what to give him to do. Then she turned back to Chaim. “Ok, what do you need me to do?”
“Wow, I keep forgetting that you’re the Super-Mama! So, right. Did you choose a new spot for the lilac? It’s ready to move, and after that I need your help with trimming this other bush that’s next to the rhododendron. It’s not technically in the way, but it would be good to have room to walk over here when we’re trying to put the sukkah up.”
Rivka shook her head at his Super-Mama comment, but took the shovel and headed to the side yard while Chaim hacked away at the rhododendron and the kids made decorations. Tamar cut strips, Suri and Ari colored on them, Nachi wrapped them into loops and held them looped together while Tamar stapled them. When they got bored of that, Tamar cut foam shapes, Nachi punched holes in the middle, and they all strung the shapes and some pony beads on the colored plastic lanyard string. Suri helped Ari pick out bigger chunky beads to put between his shapes instead of pony beads and made sure he didn’t try to eat them. The baby happily lay in her stroller and just enjoyed being outside. She was very young and outside was her second favorite place to be. Rivka’s arms was her most favorite place, of course, but outside was very nice too. Very soon it would be Sukkos and then Simchas Torah, and then, all too soon, the fall holiday whirlwind would be past. Rivka hoped for the perfect fall weather to hold, but for now, she just enjoyed the perfect day.