If I was Dr. Seuss, my latest book might sound like this: I miss my parents every day, I always miss them in every way. I miss them when I’m here, and I miss them when I’m there. I miss them when I’m feeling sad, I miss them when I’m feeling glad. Do you miss them also? Do you, can you feel my pain? I miss them when it’s simchah-time, and I miss them when it’s yom-tov time.
The words “yom-tov time” hit me with a jolt. I want to have what I once had and for my family to be the way it once was. And there is nothing like a yom-tov season to bring up those feelings. I will never again experience yom tov at my parents’ house: the early mornings where we bleary-eyed sisters sauntered into the kitchen with our energetic toddlers are no more. Those long coffee shmuesses and the leibedike yom-tov meals won’t happen anymore. No more yom-tov afternoon walks in my parents’ neighborhood or the blissfully quiet, late-night, adult-only seudahs.
I miss the unique feel and flavor, smells and sights of each yom-tov I experienced in my parents’ home. By nature I am a sentimental person. I always look back at days gone by with nostalgia – and life doesn’t stand still. People and circumstances are constantly changing. But the forced change came too early to my family. Death happened to people who were so young, heightening my feelings of longing for what once was.
Yet the memories that I have provide a strong basis for me of what I would like to pass down to my children. I want my children to enjoy family the way I enjoyed it. I want my children to enjoy talking, laughing and singing zemiros together. I want my children to want to come back home with their families, to enjoy the flavors and smells that are part of their childhood.
Hashem has given me a lot of berachah in my life. I won’t let the sadness and pain cause me to forget that. I have a wonderful legacy to pass down that can’t get lost in the grief. I want to give my own children the gift of what I once had. It won’t be the same. It can’t be the same. We are different people. We are creating our own dynamics. And so our own unique approach to life, interwoven with my parents’ legacy, can be beautiful and special.
Their legacy is one of simchas hachayim. Despite the challenges they grappled with, my parents’ home was a joyful place, where laughter was constantly heard. And yom-tov time brought a lot of that. The ruchniyus and gashmiyus mixed together to create joyful, meaningful experiences.
My parents had true nachas from their family. They loved yom tov, when we would spend time together, enjoying divrei Torah interspersed with wit and humor. Every year on the first night of Sukkos my father would declare that our sukkah was the nicest in the neighborhood, and we all laughed. We laughed at the repetitiveness of his annual remarks, and we laughed because our sukkah was absolutely not the nicest. My father saw a sukkah that he built with my brother and decorated with my younger sister’s school-made projects. My father saw that for the next eight days he would enjoy family seudahs in this sukkah. He saw the night meals where we would talk and relax and the day meals where a bunch of screaming girls would run away from the bees. And to him that meant we had the nicest sukkah.
Pesach brought similar feelings. My father took great pride in our Seder table. The Sedarim that we shared with both sets of grandparents made it extra-special. My grandfather, a survivor of the Holocaust, relived the miracles of his life, sharing his appreciation for his personal cheirus with us. My mother basked in joy as she listened to her father speak, repeating to us children what we didn’t understand. I was the first to get married, but I was never ready to stop coming home. Because when there were four generations sitting at a Seder table, I knew I was experiencing something unique and exhilarating.
I’m not Dr. Seuss. I never will be. But in my own language I can say, “I will always miss my parents, especially at yom-tov time.”
I hope that as my children marry and move on, they will also want to come running back for more, sharing and describing to their children our family minhagim, jokes, zemiros – our own legacy, which I am passing down as a continuation of what my parents and grandparents created and passed on to me. And then I will really feel and know that my parents’ memory continues to live on.