These Normal Stories
Expanded Stories, Linked from This Normal Life

Thursday, July 17, 2003  

Amir Against the Wind
A special bonus story from This Normal Life

Last year it was falling planters. This year, the whole roof was in danger of crashing down.

Well, the schach that is – the virtual ceiling of our very real walking booby-trap.

By now you already know that we’ve got the easiest-to-build sukka in town. We just throw a couple rolls of schach on top of our pergola and we’ve got a temporary tabernacle sweet enough to shake a lulav at.

Getting the schach up there, however, takes a bit of engineering skill.

And a couple of small children.

Fortunately, twelve-year-old Amir and ten-year-old Merav have been more than happy to oblige by climbing up on the roof. For them, it’s a great game. An opportunity to see things from a new perspective.

Never mind the fact that it’s three stories up and the drop is straight down into the neighbor’s yard.

Once the schach has been rolled out – carefully with active supervision by one overprotective parent, of course – it needs to be tied down. We generally use string.

The schach itself has these thin threads that attach the bamboo strips together. The kids insert the string inbetween the threads and around the wooden slats of the pergola beneath. I then tie it all up from the other side, while standing on a chair. It’s always been a piece of cake.

Until this year.

Half an-hour before the holiday begins, Amir comes crying downstairs in a panic.

“There’s…a….big wind….It’s blowing…all the…schach…off!” he pants in time to the gusts which have inexplicably kicked up at this, the eleventh hour before we can no longer make changes to the sukka according to Jewish Law.

All right, I think to myself. No cause for concern. Maybe a couple of the strings have come loose. It’s never happened before, but we can handle it.

This is a big wind though. And Amir is right. Both rolls of bamboo are billowing in the air, held on by just a couple of the strings we so meticulously tied.

Amir flies back onto the roof, employing some super hero powers heretofore never witnessed in our house. He literally throws himself onto the schach to keep it from flying off completely and hurtling downward.

Yes, downward – towards the neighbor’s sukka.

Horrified, I think: not again. We can’t destroy their sukka two years running.

Amir is now holding on to one end of the schach, but it’s clear the situation is highly volatile. I do my best to assess the situation and offer solutions.

What I can see is that our string is still attached to the pergola slats, but the threads in the schach have torn clear through.

“Maybe we tied it in the wrong spot,” I suggest. “Why don't we wrap the string lengthwise around the bamboo strips and not just in the connectors. What do you think?”

Amir says nothing. He is laying spread eagle three stories up in the midst of a near hurricane. His face sports the forlorn look of a child watching all his hard work blown away in a single act of a highly capricious God.

Or at least a God with a wicked sense of humor.

We have no choice but to get to work. While keeping his torso splayed across one side of the schach, he begins threading the string in the new manner we’ve worked out. But he’s only one person...and not yet a fully grown one at that.

Another huge gust slams into him, causing the schach to rise like a living creature. It turns, then twists back on itself before crashing down again. For this moment in time, Amir has taken on the role of Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice as he faces down a formerly inanimate object with a newly independent mind of its own.

Amir ties one corner and starts a careful crawl across the schach. As he does so, though, he scrapes his knee. He lets out a yowl.

“I can’t do this,” he whimpers. “I have to rest.”

“We can’t stop now, Amir,” I respond. “What if another big wind comes and blows even harder? This is war!”

“But Abba, I can’t.”

“Imagine you’re in the middle of a battlefield, Amir. If you were to take a break at the height of the fighting, the enemy tanks would run you over. You’ve got to buckle up, forget about your pain and finish the job. We have no choice!

Now, I’ve never been in the army, but I can imagine this must be how a sergeant barks orders in a life or death situation. And right now I am Amir’s commanding officer.

Amir gets the message. Leaping from corner to corner while grimmacing in pain, he threads the strings like the trooper I know he can be, covering every base until any possibility of rogue schach has been neutralized.

The job is complete. As we survey the final results, a siren starts to wail. Not an air-raid siren (although that would be appropriate) but the shrill call that blares from loudspeakers all across Jerusalem announcing that the Sabbath – and in this case also the holiday of Sukkot – has begun.

The schach is holding against the continuing winds. And Amir, although now nursing his wounds, can certainly hold his head up with pride. He has acted with a bravery fully deserving a medal of honor from any regular army. The Battle for Blum’s Sukka 2003 has been won.

I can only imagine what next year will bring!

If you liked this bonus story, please let me know you followed the web link to get here.

Just click here (or type into your email program) to drop me a line. Write in it: "I believe in Amir."

I'll be sure to forward it to him!

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posted by Brian | 9:14 AM
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