Sometimes we’re so aligned, Mr. December and I, it feels almost too perfect. We don’t disagree on big things very often, we fight fair, and we use data and logic to resolve our differences. Once a year, though, there’s a difference of opinion that is guaranteed to crop up. It comes every single year, and we’ve never resolved it.
It’s our sukkah.
I build one pretty much every year. And every time I do, Mr. December tries to convince me not to bother. I think his objection has to do with the amount of time and effort it takes to build something that we’ll use for less than a week (because there are always a couple of days of Sukkot that are too cold or rainy to eat out there.) In any case, he used to just refuse to have anything to do with building it. Then one year I pointed out that the kids look forward to the sukkah every year (“won’t you please think of the children?”) and since then he has grudgingly offered to help me with any part of the construction that I can’t handle by myself (but only after it’s abundantly clear that I won’t be talked out of it.)
The worst was the year I was pregnant with R, and already a week past my due date. Since Mr. December didn’t want to help build it, I called on a friend to help me (he subsequently left the country. Coincidence?). The morning of Erev Sukkot (Sukkot Eve) I woke up in labour and gave birth two and a half hours later. We didn’t use the sukkah at all that year, and it didn’t get taken down until springtime. As much as it pains me to say it, Mr. December was right that time.
Even in years when I’m not pregnant, he has a point. I probably spent eight hours total putting together the sukkah this year. That is a lot of time for something we’ll probably sit in for a total of twelve hours if we’re lucky (note to self: have coffee and breakfast in the sukkah.) But it’s the only Jewish festival where the main mandate is to be happy (Sukkot is also referred to as Zman Simchateinu–the time of our happiness,) and when the preparation is so concrete and child-friendly. And I love building and decorating, and the kids seem to like having the sukkah too. So I keep building it. And now that we’re homeschooling, I have an airtight reason why we should definitely, absolutely, always have a sukkah: it’s an integral part of my Judaic studies curriculum!
Tonight we had my parents and my in-laws over to eat in the sukkah. We had a lovely time thanks to the infrared heater I hung directly above the table. There was a fair amount of cajoling needed to get the kids to help me decorate it this year, and it shows; I have sukkah envy after seeing everyone else’s beautiful decorations on Facebook. But the sukkah was comfortable, the company was much beloved, and the twinkle lights lent just a bit of enchantment. So what if our sukkah isn’t magazine-worthy this year (or any year)?