It's that time of year again when I'm asked -- tentatively, kindly, often -- it's another Jewish holiday? And, indeed, it is.
It's Rosh Hashanah, the head of our year. Our fresh start, our new beginning. Like our children with their crisp backpacks and sharpened pencils facing their new school year with fingers crossed that the year will be kind to them -- and their mamas behind them hoping for the exact same thing -- we Jews kickstart fall with hope.
Our family looks for nooks and crannies to embed familiar moments in the busy that comes with the changing leaves. So when the school bells ring and the busses pass -- one yellow blur after the other -- our wishes for a happy new year are peacefully twofold.
Tashlik, the casting away of regrets, is by far our favorite new year tradition. It surpasses the big meal and the white clothes, the honey cake and the days off from school.
I wouldn't have it any other way. Here's why.
For us, Tashlik means family. Quiet. Tradition. Closure. Hope. New. And beginning. While I'm often unsure of my Jewish parenting moves, this much I know: I want my children to look at beginnings with their faces (humbly) tipped to the opportunity to change.
So our family doesn't spend these days off in synagogue. What we do is Tashlik. This is how it went last year.
I pass a softened piece of challah from my hand to hers.
The shape of our fingers and the shade of their tips match. "It's small." She says, her chocolate tinted eyes meeting my hazel version of the same.
The breeze blows her hair in slices across her face. Long strands whistle and whip until she can hardly see.
I reach across the small space between us to slip a lock behind one ear, my long-time favorite gesture of love.
"Choose wisely," I answer, a tiny gem passed from mother to daughter. Another gesture.
Today is golden, the sun glints and sparkles and shimmers against the water.
It's Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, and we're doing Tashlik, the casting away of this year's regrets.
One small piece of challah, our Friday night bread, goes into the water for each fear, trait, mistake that we're ready to let go of.
Our family holds tight to rituals like these -- ones we can do together and explain easily.
By the light of this morning's just-risen sun, I baked honey cake for my family. In Judaism, food is often the gesture.
I ran my fingers through silky flour, sprinkled in generous doses of the finest of flavors. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Allspice.
Stirring and mixing and blending the sweetness that is meant to come after Tashlik.
I remember my own mother, my Ima, doing the same.
Padding across her tiled kitchen in slippered feet, her small, barely five foot frame topped with shocking henna-red hair.
Her handwritten, in Hebrew, recipe lost beneath many of the same ingredients that I used today. Honey. Orange juice. Coffee.
Blue-inked sloped and curved letters, that I no longer know how to read, deliciously stained and splattered.
She was a whirlwind in her kitchen. Leaving open cabinets, spilled ingredients, and the sweetest of cakes in her wake.
This morning after Tashlik, my family turned on our heels, our backs to the old, our fronts to the new.
We walked together as five, sneakered feet crunching earthy pebbles and newly fallen leaves.
We feasted on honey cake and apples dipped in honey and apple juice.
Countless reminders of the sweetness in opportunity, in newness, in what is yet to come.
On our way, Kayli laced her fingers with mine. "I love Tashlik." She said, her voice lilting within the same wind that blew her hair just moments before.
This gesture has passed from my Ima's weathered hands to my own lined ones to my daughter's smooth, matching set.
A sweet beginning to the new year, in perfect harmony with the flip of the calendar page. I can't think of a better way to spend a day off.
Happy New Year, friends. May your year be kind, your Tashlik thoughtful, your changes peaceful, your honey cake sweet, and your most important puzzle pieces, passed.