This is my favorite time of year.
Not too hot, not too cold. The leaves turn the most beautiful colors. Have you taken the time to notice them? Golds and reds, purples and pinks. If you haven’t taken the time to look up at them, you definitely should. They are stunning. God’s artistry. Breathe in the crisp fall air and really appreciate the ability you have to breathe. I also love when there are leaves on the ground and I can crunch them when I walk. The noise is comforting, symbolic of life and seasons changing.
This time of year also is my favorite because it is my birthday.
Since I am a middle child and constantly seeking attention, I love my birthday. Every year, I annoy my family with a countdown to the “day.” Son #3’s birthday is the first of September. Son #1’s birthday is the first of October, and that is when the countdown to my birthday begins, leading up to the first of November. My sister’s birthday just happens to be the day before mine, so she gets included in the countdown.
For the past several years, one of the highlights of my birthday was going on Facebook to see how many people took the time to wish me a happy birthday. I just loved that part. And last year I was blessed with the ability to receive a picture of my Strudel holding a “Happy Birthday Babka” sign. And then I got to watch an outtake video of what happens when you give a six-month-old a piece of paper to pose with. It was just precious and absolutely hysterical.
And now it is a year later. And my birthday is approaching (well, by the time you read this, it already has past).
This year is so very much different. Since losing my dad, I have taken on a lot of things that I am not required to do during my year of mourning, but I have chosen to take on because of the deep love and respect I have for my father. I have shared with you how I am not listening to music all year. The “requirement” is to abstain from live music, but I have taken it further by not listening to any music. My feeling is that men get to say kaddish three times a day, constantly reminding them of their loss — not that they necessarily need that reminder — but women do not. By taking on these extras, this is my way of making up for not saying kaddish and having a daily reminder of why this year is so different.
And then there is my birthday.
This year, I am not celebrating it. I even took my birth date off Facebook so the day will just pass like any other. My friends who wanted to celebrate with me were told not this year, but thank you so much. I told my kids that I don’t even want them to buy me cards — but I will be more than happy to accept handwritten notes from them. (Do you get the feeling that next week’s column will be about the fact that all I wanted for my birthday was for my kids to give me handwritten cards and they couldn’t even do that? Only time will tell.) No gifts, no cake, no singing, and no dad.
I still cannot believe it.
I also cannot believe how grief just creeps in where you least expect it. Seeing a picture, smelling something familiar, wanting to ask a question — and seeing the leaves changing colors and knowing how much my dad also loved this time of year. I still remember the tree in Ridgewood, near his office, that he would point out every time we passed it. I remember the fiery red leaves that appeared each fall. And yet I am still grateful for all the birthdays I was able to celebrate with him — the ones he knew about, and then, in the past few years, the ones that he pretended to know about.
So this year, my gift to myself is the fall session of Camp Babka. My wonderful kids are letting me take her for the week because she is even better than cake — and that is saying a lot.
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck apologizes for yet another depressing column. But it’s her birthday and she’ll depress you if she wants to….