Minnesota Mamaleh: Just This Afternoon

Newly darkened hair. Important, I know.

I wrap a cozy jacket around me as the wind kisses my face. My newly darkened hair wisps in front of my eyes as I breathe the day, and my family, in. And I bittersweetly know it’s true. Fall is here.
I’m trading in lemonade on the porch for hot chocolate on the soccer field and a fresh start to the new year.
It’s Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year. And my family smiles with anticipation. My children think apples and honey for breakfast. Jason thinks honey cake for whenever he pleases. And I think Tashlich.
In Hebrew, “Tashlich” means “to cast off.” On Rosh HaShannah, we toss (or cast) pieces of bread into a body of flowing water. The water carries away the bits of bread, and with them, we mindfully let go of  aspects of the past year that we dislike. They, too, get carried away.

Tashlich Walk 2009. It was much, much warmer then.

And that’s just what we’re doing this afternoon. Our cheeks are rosy, our fleeces are zipped, our hands are clenching bags of bread. And our minds are filled with frown-worthy thoughts. But not for long. We’re ready to relinquish those icy fingers that are gripping onto nooks and crannies within our hearts. We’re ready to let go. Right now.
Besides the plane roaring above us and the bird squawking loudly nearby, we are alone here on this path. Our feet step firmly, strongly. Relentlessly crunching into the oh-so-very Fall-ish mish-mash of twigs, pebbles, sand and, indeed, leaves.
My heart beats in rhythm. And with each pound, my soul fills up with something that I’m ready to say goodbye to. I exhale those moments out and prepare to cast them into the water.
I keep walking. My little family fills up this seemingly never-ending path with our sounds, our steps and our thoughts. As I inhale again, I allow the joys, the “wins” from the year to fill me right back up. And that little gem, I learned from a book.

Tashlich at Turtle Rock by Susan Schnur and Anna Schnur-Fishman

When I received Tashlich at Turtle Rock by Susan Schnur and Anna Schnur-Fishman in the mail, the teacher in me could hardly wait to crack the book open and pore over each and every page, word, illustration. And the mom in me couldn’t wait to share the book with my children.
And when I did, we all found it to be…absolutely perfect. The cozy, family togetherness, the tradition that fits like a glove, the blatant glowing enjoyment that each family member takes in being fully present, fully together as they do Rosh HaShannah. It’s mind-blowing, heart-warming, connection-inspiring and tradition-creating.
When I found out that the book describes how one family, in this case a rabbi’s family, does one aspect of Rosh HaShannah together, well, that just made it even better. I wanted to reach right out and give this book a hug. And so did my children. Because we could see ourselves within its beautiful pages.

Our own Tashlich Walk has followed the same path for a few years now. I remember Jason carrying each girl down to the water to toss in their own breadcrumbs and their own mistakes, something like, “not listening” or “hitting.” I remember Brody sleeping through his first walk and being a stroller champion the second time around. And today, he’s a big two year old toddling right alongside his big sisters. Sometimes he tries to lead the way. But the girls eagerly, and somewhat forcefully, take center stage and step ahead. They’re tall, proud and ready.

Tashlich Walk 2008, and our holiday card that year

We toss our bread and watch as the water, and the bread, ripple and fade away. We share a win and a loss from the year. The kids notice fish nibbling on some of the bread crumbs and Chloe cries for those fish because they’re eating our bad stuff! So besides those poor, now negative, fish, our day is all things sweet. The way that it’s meant to be. It’s a fresh, crisp start to the new year. And I wish you the same. Shana Tova U’Metukah to you. And to those sad, sad fish, too!

*Many thanks to the fab Kar Ben Publishing for a copy of this beautiful book.*