As You Like It: A Different Passover


For most of the years that Steve and I have been married we’ve always held a Passover seder in our home. Lisa was a baby for our first one, and mom and dad were visiting from Israel so we had plenty of help from my folks. We used Steve’s parents’ seder plate and improvised the rest. My dad led the evening so we didn’t feel like we had to figure everything out just yet.

But the next year it was just the two of us and Lisa. We did the best we could and laughed at our mistakes. We felt like kids playing grown up. After all, it should have been one of our fathers leading the seder. Soon Mariel joined us. We bought more Passover items: our own seder plate, a wine cup for the prophet Elijah, and a matzoh cover. But it took a few years before we felt like we knew what we were doing.

Each year we added new songs, different interpretations, more guests. The girls left for school but made it home for Passover. It got harder, but still every year we had at least one girl home to celebrate.

Every year, the first of four questions that is asked by the youngest at the beginning of each seder is, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The rest of the evening is spent answering that question. This year I had my own question: “Why is this year different from all other years?” And my answer? Neither of our girls could make it home to celebrate with us. So we decided to spend the first evening with mom at her seder and we were invited to a friend’s house for the second. “It’s for the best,” I told myself, “since Passover comes out on Monday and Tuesday, which would make it difficult for me to get off work during the day to cook.”

Though the seder at mom’s place was lovely, I still felt lost. We didn’t sing our songs, didn’t discuss the things we usually discussed, and I didn’t hear our family’s voices reading the familiar words. I felt lost — a stranger in a strange land. When we got a call from Mariel, I smiled thinking she was calling to wish us a happy holiday, but it turned out she had a question that had nothing to do with Passover and everything to do with filing taxes. It was a good thing that we got a text from Lisa asking us for the recipe for Charoset — the mixture of apples, crushed walnuts and wine that represents the mortar used to build the pyramids. She laughed hysterically when I told her about Mariel’s “Passover” question — “Yay! I win the best daughter contest tonight!” she said.

Today at work I read Lisa’s description of her seder:

It was so fun! Yesterday afternoon I sent Matt on a wild goose chase to find matzoh ball soup mix. He finally found the soup mix at Whole Foods, along with some Kedem wine, which I had to assure him was the real thing too, not just a Manischewitz knockoff. He was like, “I don’t know what this crap is, but it’s not Manischewitz.” But once he tried it and found out that it was equally as sweet, he was ok with it.

We invited my friend Jess and her 8-year-old Sky over, and then at the last minute we saw my neighbor was home too so we leaned out our window and yelled to her that she should come over to eat matzoh ball soup. So then I was a crazy person for an hour trying to put together dinner (I made tofu burgers, but Matt wanted to know where the brisket was.) We bought horseradish from Trader Joe’s. I thought it was going to be weak but then took a big bite and thought my head was going to explode. Matt thought I was just being a wuss until he took an equally big bite and looked like a cartoon character for a few minutes with smoke practically coming out of his ears.

We put the apples and walnuts in a plastic bag and took turns smashing it with a hammer in the hallway. I hid the three afikomens and told Sky that she would get a prize if she found them all. And then we ate dinner and introduced Jess and Sky to matzoh ball soup, which they both loved.

We went through about two bottles of wine and had a big debate about whether rich people should get taxed a higher percentage of their income than lower income people and how we should fix the health care system. Jess says she always wished she was Jewish. I told her she could be an honorary Jew.

Last night we spent Passover with new friends, Helen and Steve. Twenty of us sat around an impossibly long table reciting in turn, eating wonderful food, laughing, getting to know one another. It was wonderful. It’s not often you meet that many interesting, new people. We were so warmly welcomed into their family that I felt less alone, less bereft. My holiday had been “redeemed.” Still, Shatz and I agreed that we missed our seder with our songs and traditions, and next year, no matter what, we would do our own once again. Certain things shouldn’t change.

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avatar Posted by on Apr 4 2013. Filed under As You Like It, Featured Content, Opinion. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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