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Bracha Callinsky

I remember when sukkos was simpler. The sukkos were either made of wood or canvas. Then came the fiberglass sukkah; that was fancy. There wasn’t a clear Lucite option back then.  And Pop-up sukkos? Those were a fantasy.

The sukkos were in driveways or backyards, a few steps down, and not on the same level as the kitchen. As a kid, I dreamed of a sliding door off the kitchen to a large porch or patio, so I wouldn’t have to run up and down to get everything from the house to the sukkah avoiding the 25 back and forth trips. I didn’t complain, though. There were some neighbors who had to walk down a flight of stairs from their kitchen to the sukkah. Some people even thought of a pulley system to get their food, cups, and silverware up and down. You needed to be creative in those days.

This story takes place in Flatbush when I was just a little kid. It was Sukkos day, and just about everyone from the neighborhood was gathered outside the home of Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz. 

The Schwartzes hosted a large kiddush in their sukkah every year. When I say large, I mean that there were many people coming in shifts from the shul and neighborhood.  By no means was this a large sukkah. The Schwartz’s sukkah had a few panels that didn’t match. The sukkah had originally started off as a square, and after a few years, they added more panels to make it into a rectangle. It was not big, but it was comfortable. It was beautiful, with many decorations covering the walls. There were shiny, hot pink and gold decorations draping from one corner to the other. Royal blue and emerald green spiral designs twirled in the crisp fall air.

The kiddush itself wasn’t large either. It consisted of cake, fruit, candy, nuts, herring, and kichel. There was no overnight potato kugel, yapchik, or hot pastrami.  No one felt like they were missing out on anything. They were just so happy to have a good kiddush.

The Schwartz kiddush was the highlight of the year. It was well-known among the kids that it was better than any Shabbos kiddush in shul. This was for one very special reason: on Sukkos you could carry. Everyone could fill their pockets with nosh and bring home a plate laden with cookies and cakes. On a regular Shabbos, we had to swallow all the goodies before heading home, as there was no eruv.

I had a secret place to hide all my treats. I’d bide my time, anticipating just the right time to grab my stash and run to my room. Maybe then I could get a second plate to fill before everything was gone.

The Schwartz’s backyard was nothing to write home about, but to us kids it was transformed into wonderland as all we all sat around munching on the delicious Yom Tov treats. 

So just imagine the scene on a beautiful sunny day in October, with mild, comfortable weather. The weather didn’t call for a sweater. but your mother made you wear one anyway.

Cute, little Brachie Schwartz was all dressed in her finest Yom Tov attire the year this story takes place. She wore two cute pigtails tied with silk ribbons, and she had chubby red cheeks and big blue eyes. I know you are supposed to put a comma between 2 adjectives, but I think here it may seem too much, no? Brachie was the baby in the family, the only girl, the little princess. She was very playful as she toddled amid the crowd.

The men squeezed into the sukkah which was jam-packed with an overflow crowd that spilled into the driveway. Men in their white taleisim held their lulavim, and the women parked their strollers by the garage. Children hovered over a table out by the back gate, drinking soda, water, and juice. Throngs of people stopped in before heading home for their Yom Tov seudah, schmoozing and wishing each other a good Yom Tov.

This year there was more excitement than usual.

In the midst of the celebration, two uniformed policemen showed up at the front door. To everyone but the Schwartzes, the details of that incident remain a mystery.

You see, with all the holiday hullabaloo, no one noticed cute, little Brachie climbing over the rickety back gate. She wandered off to the front yard where friends and neighbors lingered. Then she wandered a little further and managed to cross the small side street, which was a miracle in itself. The Shwartzes lived a few houses off a busy corner avenue.

Brachie was exploring and loving every minute of freedom.

She had just begun crossing a large two-way intersection when a policeman grabbed her arm and saved her life.

How can this be, you ask?

Maybe she followed a family which was crossing at the same time.

Maybe a malach, an angel, watched over her.

But she definitely got across one street and was going for the next. Boy, was she  lucky. She definitely didn’t realize the danger she could have been in as she gleefully licked her red lollipop.

The uniformed policemen knew they had a case on their hands as they searched for clues of the little girl’s residence. Holding her hands, they asked a few people if they knew the girl, with no luck. A few minutes later, two Jewish boys in nice, navy suits strolled by. The cops approached them and asked them the same question.

One brother looked at the other. “I think she’s Mr. Schwartz’s daughter from the kiddush,” he replied.  

The cops, the two boys, and sweet, little Brachie walked across the avenue and up the steps to the Schwartz home. They knocked on the door. There was no question that Brachie belonged here as she jumped into her mother’s arms, gave her a kiss, and said, “Mommy, I missed you!”

Mrs. Schwartz thanked the police profusely. She couldn’t believe what had transpired in a span of just 15 minutes. With all the tumult, she had just asked her son to check on Brachie. Baruch Hashem, she was safe and sound, all smiles, and very sticky from the red lollipop.

No police reports were filed that day, nor was there any posting by Yeshiva World News.  Just a harmless mistake with a happy ending. Those were the days. 

The simpler days.

Brachie is now married with children of her own.

She is reminded every Sukkos of that story as she looks out for her little ones who are busy playing on her back porch, which is equipped with a hefty metal, safety gate and automatic lock.

I must admit that I don’t remember all the details of her story. 

I was a very little girl when it happened. 

So little, in fact, that when I crossed a street on my own it caused quite a commotion. 

It was all people could talk about that year at the Schwartz kiddush. 

Because that little Brachie, you see, was me! 

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