It sits in a dusty corner of the garage, usually covered by tomato cages and sometimes stray fertilizer granules. It’s bundled up, a nondescript piece of canvas and a bunch of pipes, a few slightly bent. Nearby there’s a cardboard box of tangled lights in the shape of grapes and tattered foil decorations. Shelter magazine ready it is not. Some decorations are handmade and worn, made with love by toddler hands. They are still displayed with pride by their now oh-so-over-everything tween creators.
Our sukkah doesn’t know from fancy. It sits. It waits.
Each year we (read: my husband) drag the canvas, pipes, decorations and scrappy bamboo roof out of the dust and erect our humble sukkah. I’m usually spent from the just completed high holidays but that is no excuse. In fact, traditional Jews come home from shul at the end of Yom Kippur and before they even eat a bite, they put a nail into some wood as a symbolic act of erecting their sukkah. I kid you not. We are supposed to go from mitzvah to mitzvah and from strength to strength. I haven’t done this yet but I aspire to this spiritual practice. Maybe one day I’ll totter from the car in my high heels to the garage and blow off some dust before noshing on lox.
Putting up a sukkah is the Jewish equivalent of putting up and decorating a Christmas tree. It’s not without its stresses. Spouses (read: me) give unneeded, but of course very well meaning directions, children scamper around excitedly, lights are untangled in the grass and ladders are used to reach the tippy top. All in all it is a team effort and the results are usually very satisfying in a truly haimische way.
The kids look forward to the sukkah all year long, and it without it our fall would just not feel right. It marks the season. Through autumn storms, windy days (pro tip: sandbags on the corners) and crisp nights it stands in the driveway as a quiet reminder that we live in a fragile but very beautiful world.
We make our homes, large or small, often in harsh conditions. Rain gets through the roof. It can sometimes feel like the structure of our home is hanging together by threads. But only through the holes in our roof, through the gaps, can we see the stars. That’s how the light gets in. The works of our hands are not perfect and over time they tend to loosen and fray — but I would not have our sukkah any other way.