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Sep 28 2011

A Sweet & Messy New Year

By at 11:39 am

I’ve been thinking a lot about Rosh Hashanah during the last couple of weeks. First, in an out-of-character burst of preparedness, I made and froze a kugel and a tray of oatmeal date bars. Then, in an out-of-character burst of craftiness I sat down with my kids and did the Rosh Hashanah-themed sand art project the elderly women outside my son Zack’s school guilted me into buy. And yesterday, Zack came home with a book on apples he chose because he’s had the holiday on his mind.

So yes, we’ve been in the spirit. But the real reason the impending New Year has been especially palpable in our house is because our house is covered in honey. Literally. The cabinet pulls are sticky, our brand-new couch is streaked with it, and when the light shines through the sliding glass doors at a certain angle, the splotches the mop missed seem to glow.

See, while the rest of us have been busy cooking and crafting and reading, Benjamin, my autistic 8-year-old, has been busy scaling the kitchen counters in search of the jars of honey we’ve hidden (not very well, obviously). When he gets his hands on one, either because it’s 5 am and everyone’s sleeping, or I’ve run upstairs to put the baby down for a nap, or we simply flat-out refuse to get up from what we’re doing for the millionth time to trail him, he quickly unscrews the top and pours. Some ends up in his mouth. The rest, everywhere else.

We have, of course, thought about trashing it all, just like we did with the sugar and the ice cream sandwiches and the lollipops and all of the other edibles Benjamin has been obsessed with in the past. But for some reason, we’ve drawn the line at honey. We’re pushing back, refusing to let a hyper-impulsive 8-year-old dictate the makeup of our pantry.

So, like I said, I’ve been thinking a lot about Rosh Hashanah lately. Every time I bust out the mop, I’ll start thinking about how Benjamin is going to handle four long, structure-less days with no school. About how many messes we’ll be cleaning up. About how many angry outbursts we’ll have to manage. About how, when the woman in the shul office asked if I wanted a high holiday seat for any kids over 6, I shook my head no. About how when Benjamin was tiny, I was so excited for him to begin learning about the rich tradition he was born into, and about how that day has never really come.

Then, in an effort to keep it together, I’ll shift gears and start thinking about better things. About how the holidays have changed for the better. Like, for example, this past Passover, when he happily sat through both seders. And lately on Friday nights Benjamin’s the first one at the table, (sometimes an hour early, but oh well. “I want cup juice,” he’ll demand, and when Zack and Moshe belt out Shalom Aleichem he giggles.

And the truth is, last Rosh Hashanah, Benjamin wouldn’t have dared dip an apple in honey—he would never have touched a new food. In the past year he’s begun exploring his world—something I wasn’t sure he’d ever do. It’s messy, but it can be sweet, too.

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