By Larry Gordon
If not for these two young gentlemen from Denver, who would have built all the sukkahs here in the Five Towns and surrounding areas over the last few weeks? Maybe our kids, spouses, brothers-in-law, uncles, a carpenter we found in the classifieds, a contractor, or a friend. Probably any one of the above—except us, that is.
So it’s a good thing that Steven and Jonathan Litton and their crews descend on these areas in New York and beyond to quickly and efficiently erect our sukkahs—always with ample time prior to the chag so that we can be properly prepared.
“The Boys,” as I like to refer to them, are personable and very responsible. When they say they are doing something, they get it done precisely when they say so, which is sort of unusual today. They have put up our sukkah for most of the last ten years (when we’ve been home for yom tov), and it is just a pleasure to observe them authoritatively move in and get everything done as expeditiously as possible.
One of the big problems is recalling where items relating to the sukkah are stored after each yom tov and conducting a search to discover where this tool or that piece of equipment was stored for the last 12 months. With Steven and Jonathan, that is no longer a problem because they are the ones who put everything away last time, and somehow they know exactly where.
While the brothers will put up your sukkah, they have also invented a unique and even unusual sukkah—already widely distributed—that is taking the industry by storm.
You can see the sukkah at a number of homes here in the Five Towns and in Brooklyn and Queens, and, as Steven was telling me the other night while we were discussing the dynamics of sukkah-building, it is a sukkah that you purchase once in a lifetime and it has the durability to stay in the family forever. “It’s like a Lego set,” Steven says. “You buy it once and its remarkable endurance keeps it going on and on.”
“Each sukkah is created with premium Sunbrella canvas, which not only looks great, but is water- and mold-resistant, won’t fade in the sun, and is easy to clean, leaving your sukkah looking like new for years to come,” Steven said.
As you can see in the photos displayed here, this is also one great-looking sukkah and quite a fine way to celebrate and enjoy your sukkah in high style, which, if possible, is the best way to rejoice in the chag.
• • •
So far, over all these years, I have recollections of three very distinct sukkahs that have defined the way our family has observed the yom tov over these last few decades.
First, when I was a child we had this larger-than-life, behemoth sukkah with heavy wooden walls that none of us could lift, carry, or manage to construct in any way or fashion. We were three boys, and once we became young adults I think it kind of frustrated my parents that still none of us could handle it. Building sukkahs—or any structure, for that matter, regardless of how elementary—just wasn’t our thing.
So, year after year, my father was tasked with finding someone who could actually assemble these large heavy walls and somehow turn them into a sukkah. Each year it was an ordeal to find the right person to do the job well. And doing the job well meant constructing these walls so that they would not be shaky, loose, or subject to shifting on those windy days that would sometimes occur on yom tov.
We had a neighbor who was what they used to call a handyman. He was a small but tough guy from Israel, and amongst other things he was able to handle this sukkah. The only thing my father didn’t like about this setup was that he took about $180 to build it and about another $150 to take it down and store it in our garage in the back of our home in Brooklyn.
This was the 1960s and ’70s, and that was not an insignificant amount of money for this type of job, my father thought. But he also knew that he really had no choice because his boys—that would be us—just could not do it.
It’s not like we didn’t do anything. Once the sukkah was up—and somehow it was built every year—putting on the s’chach was never part of the job of building this structure, which is something I never did understand. So I can recall putting up the s’chach, which were these two-inch-wide, flat wooden slats. This was not only tiring and painstaking work but definitely good for a few deeply painful splinters as well. I think we argued amongst ourselves about who put up the sukkah ceiling the previous year; while I don’t remember who won those arguments, I do remember spending a lot of time on top of a ladder neatly placing the slats in a row—and then sitting with a tweezers, trying to get the very tiny wood pieces out from under the skin on my hand.
• • •
My wife and I bought our own sukkah the second year we were married. That sukkah was small—about 6 feet by 8 feet, if I recall correctly—and made of canvas. It was a nice, suitable place to sit with two babies after those first couple of years of being married. This sukkah stayed with us for a few years and then moved with us to the home we bought a bit deeper into the Midwood area. At first it was in the front of our home, but in the new house we had room in the backyard, so we placed it there.
The canvas sukkah served us well, and my only out-of-the-ordinary recollection about it was one time when, after a windy night, I came outside to have a cup of coffee on a yom tov morning only to find that the sukkah wasn’t there. The wind had its way with the sukkah overnight, and while the s’chach mat was still in my backyard, I noticed that the sukkah itself was lying on its side in my neighbor’s backyard.
Then we moved our family out here to the Five Towns, and the days of the canvas sukkah were over. It must be more than 20 years now, but the beige-paneled sukkah with a nice large window and a sliding door has served us well, baruch Hashem, year after year.
• • •
This is a beautiful, even magnificent, season of the year both here and in Israel. We celebrated and marked the New Year on Rosh Hashanah, and davened, meditated, fasted, and connected on Yom Kippur. Sukkos brings it all together for us as we palpably demonstrate our faith in and reliance on HaKadosh Baruch Hu to carry us and sustain us in the year ahead.
I wondered aloud whether the Litton brothers take down and put away the same number of sukkahs that they build each year. I asked that because I recall as a child seeing a sukkah in my neighborhood that stayed up for months after yom tov, and I can even envision one or two that stayed up on a back or front porch all year round. Steven Litton said that they do indeed deconstruct and store away the same number of sukkahs that they build each year. That would mean that none of their customers have the drive to take down one of these sukkahs on their own.
That reminded me of my father’s understanding that although his boys could not build the sukkah, certainly we should be able to take it down. After all, wrecking something is much easier than building, isn’t it? No, he never said that, and I’m not sure he even thought it; I’m just dreaming up a probable scenario.
Anyway, next Sukkos we will all certainly be basking in G‑d’s glory in the great and holy city of Jerusalem. By then I will have my beautiful patented Sunbrella sukkah, so I just have to remind the Litton brothers that I will be taking ours to go.
Chag sameiach to all. v
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