Friday, October 21, 2005

"...you will dwell in booths for seven days..."

I am feeling rather the worse for wear today after a very late night building a succah. I know, we're already four days into the festival - this should have been done last week. But I'm not talking about a real succah (be fair - I live in a first floor flat with no balcony or garden). I'm talking about a model succah for Scrappino's school succah building competition.

I thought it would be a piece of cake. After all, when we were kids, we used to build our model succah in less than an hour. Take one shoe box, cut out a door and a couple of windows, lay a few random twigs on top, draw some miniature pictures on the walls and plonk a few lego men inside. And hey presto - a scaled down tabernacle fit for a king!

Not any more. Nowadays succah building is a lot more sophisticated. An old Clarke's box just doesn't cut it. The models on display in the school hall are nothing short of state-of-the-art. I saw one yesterday morning with a sliding roof, complete with fully functional pulley system that slides the roof off to reveal an immaculately laid table with real food. I kid you not. Marzipan chicken on the plates and marzipan wine in the tiny silver (foil) cups. Another had a battery stuck to the back wall which operated real coloured lights in the s'chach.

Kids today are so competitive. Or, more accurately, the parents of kids today are so competitive. Years ago, our parents would put some old loo rolls, a packet of felt pens and some tissue paper on the dining room table and just leave us to it. Now, the parents are hands-on and fully involved. One of the mums told me this morning that she had started work on their model succah in mid-September. That's over four weeks ago! Admittedly, the final result was a masterpiece, with home-made model people holding miniature lulav and etrog and curtains that opened and closed in front of real (well, cellophane, but still definitely see-through) windows.

What used to be a competition for kids to build a model succah out of scraps of rubbish left round the house has become a lucrative business for the local stationers and art shops. Shoe boxes are out. Sparkly hologram boxes with tinsel edging is in. A couple of twigs and a handful of leaves for the roof is out. Silk bouquet stems with miniature fruit and flowers is in. And this stuff isn't cheap. If you want to build a winning model succah you have to be prepared to put your hand in your pocket.

Personally, I think it's a real shame when the kids' efforts are so obviously the work of their parents. And the sad thing is that the one kid in the class who actually does make the model himself doesn't have a cat in hell's chance of winning because, frankly, compared to the others, his succah looks crap. Who'd vote for the shoe-box with random dinosaur model inside (well, not everyone has lego, and Scrappino went through a very long dinosaur fixation) when the competition is fully carpeted throughout, with understairs storage space and a moveable roof?

As a result, Scrappino decided that his entry into the competition needed a bit of updating, so he took it home again on the sly yesterday and revamped it somewhat. Out went the dinosaur and the matchbox table. In went pipe cleaner people (some standing, some sitting down), a table with real material tablecloth (one less handkerchief for me to use when bird flu hits London) and, the piece de resistance, rolled up leaves snipped off my birthday roses to serve as hollishkes (you can't have a succah without hollishkes, can you?). He managed to sneak it back into the school hall this morning without anyone realizing that it had been and gone overnight.

I'm not sure that Scrappino is going to win. Our last ditch attempt to improve the original version is unlikely to compete with the Foster-inspired tabernacle architecture on offer. But at least we gave it a go. I had to stay up late putting the finishing touches on the model which is totally against the spirit of the competition. But if you can't beat 'em, you've got to join 'em. It's a dog eat dog world out there.

The parental meddling in the Succah competition was not the only cruel introduction that Scrappino has received this week into the unsavoury side of adult life. He received a letter yesterday from a firm of insolvency lawyers, inviting him to a creditors meeting. It seems that a small publishing firm (I can't even remember the name, they're that small) has recently gone bankrupt. Not groundbreaking news in itself. But this firm happens to publish a kid's magazine called 'Find Out' for Dorling Kindersley. I bought Scrappino a year's subscription to the magazine for his birthday. Well, I figured it was better than the Simpsons comic, less terrifying than Dr Who Monthly and it is (well, it was) delivered to the door. And Scrappino loves getting post. Unfortunately, six months on, we found out that 'Find Out' has gone under. Scrappino is still owed six issues and so has been invited to the creditors meeting to discuss the insolvency arrangements. I'm not particularly confident that he has much hope of recovering his £13.80. I suspect the Inland Revenue might have a heftier claim to settle first. Still, that money would have come in handy. Think of the model succah we could have built with that cash.

7 Comments:

Blogger baldricka said...

I remember when I was teaching it looked as though the parents had employed the same interior decorators they used for their houses to make their darlings' succahs!

7:38 pm  
Blogger bangedmyhead said...

you should have put a poster of Eilat on the door of the succa, then it definately would have won!!!

9:51 pm  
Blogger tafka PP said...

I've been silently reading you for a while via LG's blog, but I just have to comment now as you have re-awakened long discarded traumas about model succah competitions of yore. Hope that the Holishkes got a special commendation!

3:03 pm  
Anonymous P not in the USA said...

Excellent - I think you should send Scrappino to the creditor's meeting - it will be educational. He can ask the Inland Revenue why they need the money more than he needs his £13.80!

2:22 pm  
Blogger R.x said...

Baldricka - you'll not be surprised to learn that we didn't win the competition - some kid who made a succah themed pirate ship won (it had sails, mast and gantry...)

Bangedmyhead - don't encourage him...

AFKAPP - welcome to the blog - enjoy (sadly, the judge had no clue what a hollishke is!!)

PintheUSA - we both know the money would only be spent on Dr Who dvd's...

11:06 am  
Blogger MC Aryeh said...

Perhaps they should have two contests - one for best model sukkah built by parent and the other for best built by child. Or else divide categories by materials cost....I would bring the model sukkah to the creditors meeting. Might liven things up a bit.

6:18 pm  
Blogger Karl said...

I was was going to suggest the same as McAryeh. Why cant they just get the kids to make the models in school. I recall sleepless nights while I was in school; running out to get more crafts, colouring, cutting and sticking, modeling and creating the perfect project - by my parents, all while I was having a good night sleep!

6:13 pm  

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