For my first Rosh Hashanah “out,” the decision not to go home for yom tov was an easy one. But I decided to go to my parents the night before Erev Rosh Hashanah. My reasoning was that this is hard on them, and I can give them a little – I know they want to give me a bracha and cry over me, so I can go home and let them do that. And then I can leave and put it out of my mind.
I was so focused on what I’d give to them, and how that moment would be for them, and how I would act afterwards, that I forgot to take into account how I would feel standing wrapped in my father’s arms as he sobbed into my hair, alternately begging me to come back and begging god to give me a good year. I forgot to take into account how I would feel watching my mother’s eyes get red as my father gave me the bracha and then feeling her chest heaving as she hugged me and kissed my cheek.
I felt horrible.
I left and tried to put it out of my mind, but it wasn’t as easy as I’d so breezily assumed.
For my second Rosh Hashanah “out,” I went to my parents for yom tov. I told my parents that a friend had invited me for the second day meal, and I wasn’t sure yet if I was going. That was my getaway plan – no one had invited me, but in case it was all too much for me, I could escape the second day.
It was too much for me, and by the afternoon of the first day I was itching to just pack my bags and leave. I didn’t, though. I just carefully planned how I would leave the following morning.
In the morning, I packed a small bag with a water bottle, a book, and my phone tucked out of sight. Since it was yom tov and not shabbos, I could carry and didn’t have to hide the bag – just the phone. I said goodbye to my mother, and I walked to the train. I spent the day at work, dressed in my yom tov clothes. And then after 5, I went to the park and lounged there for a while. I got back just in time for havdala, then packed up all my stuff and went home.
For my third Rosh Hashanah “out,” I told my mother that I could only be there for one day. She said okay. We had already discussed by this point that if they demand I abide by the rules and laws of shabbos and yom tov, I can’t be there at all. But my mother asked if I could not explicitly tell her when I’m going to be mechalel shabbos or yom tov. So it was understood that I would leave in the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, and we would just pretend it wasn’t happening.
Apparently, she did not pass this understanding along to my father, who teared up and looked absolutely stricken when I said a cheerful goodbye and left after the very late and very long afternoon seudah. I tried not to care, but it didn’t work very well.
For my fourth Rosh Hashanah “out,” there’s no question. I have by now separated myself (almost entirely) from my parents and their demands and expectations of me. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to get some honey or bake some honey cookies or honey cake. I haven’t decided if I’m going to try to buy a rimon, or cook some black-eyed peas or any of the other simanim. I haven’t decided whether or how I’ll mark this day. But I do know I don’t owe my parents my presence, not to rejoice with and not to cry over.