T he first call came when I was driving home from my teaching job. When her name appeared on caller ID, I thought it was odd for her to call. She was an old friend from high school, part of the same chevreh, but you know how chevrehs are, you’re close with two or three and hang out with the rest. She was part of the rest, and now we mostly keep up through the group’s WhatsApp chat.

I answered. We chatted. It seemed like an aimless call, and I wondered when she’d get to the point. The conversation naturally wound down and she said, “It was great talking to you, have a kesivah v’chasimah tovah!”

Oh, so that’s what it was: a pre-Rosh Hashanah phone call. I hadn’t realized people my age did them. Those calls are for mothers and grandmothers, aunts and mature people. But then I got another call from another person in my high-school chevreh.

So people my age did them. Just not me.

My mother would harass me every year after I got married to call all my aunts before Rosh Hashanah. I passive-aggressively said, “I know I should.” But I never did.

I don’t know what it was. It seemed contrived. Like, “Hi, I don’t speak to you ever, but you’re my aunt, hope you have a happy life.” And I’ve never been good at small talk. If I could just say “Kesivah v’chasimah tovah” the moment they picked up, and then hang up, then maybe I’d do it. Or if I could just send a text. But even I know a text is not appropriate for an aunt.

“I know, my mother harasses my older sister, too,” my single friend told me when I vented to her about my yearly avoidance. “A perk of being single, I fall under the umbrella of my parents, I don’t have to call anyone.”

I laughed.

“My cousin who’s older than me and also single likes to assert her independence by making her own calls.”

Then this past year, I’m not sure what happened. My mother didn’t even call to remind me; I think she’d given up. But two days before Rosh Hashanah I wrote “call people” on my to-do list.

Was it a sign of maturity? Of growth? Maybe it was a realization of my appreciation for the people in my life — I suddenly felt the desire to call people and sincerely wish them a gut gebentsht yahr.

I started small. First a few friends who thankfully didn’t answer, so I left messages. And then other friends did pick up, and we schmoozed and chatted, and it was nice; the only thing different was the closing: kesivah v’chasimah tovah, with the accompanying brachos.

I didn’t call all my aunts — just three whom I know the best, and could have the easiest conversations with.

It was really nice talking to them. There’s a heavy dose of maternal loving, they’re still older and wiser, but then they also relate to me as a person and equal.

“I think it’s a sign of aging,” one aunt told me. “This year I’ve received more phone calls than I made.” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 559)