Friday, April 10, 2009


When I was a child we made the annual pilgrimage to my cousins' house in Sacramento for the first night of Passover. We are Reform Jews, far less religious than our Orthodox cousins. The seder was an eight-hour ordeal, beginning around 7pm. We broke about midnight for dinner and then my family got into the car and drove home then while my cousins and their extended Orthodox clan continued on. The best part was hanging out with my cousin Sara. We had a strategic approach to stealing the Afikomen and hiding it from our four younger siblings. One time my family actually stopped at McDonald's on the way to Sacramento, knowing we'd not eat dinner until after our stomaches had growled for no fewer than three hours. Although we stopped celebrating Passover with them when we moved to Alaska, I'm sure it still goes on today in much the same way.

The best seder I ever went to was at my Aunt Evelyn's house in Chicago, while I was in college. Amongst the guests was Jeff Garlin, who was very early in his stand-up comedy career. (He now plays Jeff Greene on Curb Your Enthusiasm.) My Orthodox grandma was whipping through the seder at one end of the table in Hebrew. Jeff was at the other end making one liners. Those of us in the middle of the table were trying not to pee in our pants.

Fast forward to the present time.

Dave's Aunt Janice and Uncle Bob always host the first seder. This year The Pinks were finally old enough that I did not worry about their breaking all the small, low-placed, fragile tzotchkes. The seder did not seem so long, perhaps because our kids participated and because I was busy reflecting how much the same Passover is anywhere: the lace overlay tablecloth, the Matzoh cover created by some child a long time ago, the Israeli seder plate, the too-sweet Manischewitz, the overcooked chicken. Thing 2 set a new record for matzoh ball consumption at one sitting.

We did second seder with my folks, with the addition of Thom Singer, who was visiting us. My brother and his family were celebrating on Maui, it being spring break and all. Eldest Daughter awed us with her ability to read Hebrew. (Three years of Hebrew school has apparently paid off.) Aunt Evelyn, who was not present, made the best new contribution to our seder: a chocolate seder plate, which we ate for dessert with strawberries and Kool Whip. Kitschy Judaica is much more prevalent in Skokie than it is in Moraga.

Whereas I used to dread these holidays, now I find comfort in them, the sameness from year to year, the ritualism.

1 comment:

Polka Dot Moon said...

Wonderful memories :)