I, like perhaps everyone in the United States, really miss people. I miss trudging through the heat to see friends, I miss bar trivia, I miss my family. Introversion and homebody preference aside, people are pack animals and it’s difficult when we can’t see each other, particularly around the holidays.
The only other person I’ve spent any substantive amount of time with for the last six months is my partner, which is lucky because I happen to like her very much, but there’s a certain loss that comes with spending the holidays without our family and friends.
Nevertheless, we were determined to honor the new year from the comfort of our very cozy apartment. Olivia, who is a superlative cook, dug into several of our Jewish and Mediterranean cookbooks, initially planning to make something called a nut loaf (your guess is as good as mine), but settled on stuffed eggplant instead. One joy of keeping a vegetarian kitchen is that we never need to worry about cross-contamination; there is very little chance for an errant piece of chicken to find its way onto a vegetable cutting board if no chicken is to be found. She also roasted squash with sage, sautéed green beans with mushrooms and baked a spiced apple honey cake that would knock your socks clean off, in addition to two absolutely perfect four-strand challah loaves. For many Jewish people, food is love, and I felt extremely loved.
However, this is obviously a lot of food for two people to eat, even over multiple days. We snuck furtive glances at our neighbors on the fire escape, ready to leap at them with cake like two overly-friendly lesbian bandits, but it didn’t come to pass. Instead, we took the second loaf of challah and walked through the beautiful fall weather to the house of friends we hadn’t seen since March. A little part of me worried that somehow, we would have lost touch, or that the rapport wouldn’t be the same standing outside at a distance, but we quickly fell back into an old rhythm and talked until it became too cold to continue.
Strangely, I always felt isolated during the High Holidays, even surrounded by people. Now, in literal isolation, I’ve never felt closer to those I love. It turns out that I merely needed to surround myself, both digitally and distantly, with the right people. Rosh Hashanah is more than going through the motions and saying the prayers. Every year is different, every celebration is different, and the holiday evolves as we evolve. There is no one perfect Rosh Hashanah, because there is no one perfect person, or perfect family. And especially now, when things are grim, it feels wonderful to take a moment and celebrate the holidays as best we can with what we are able to do.