Passover is a huge deal at our house. Part of the hugeness comes from years of seder memories… family and friends squeezed into our tiny dining room, knocking our knees against the fold-up table legs, spilling wine on the once-a-year starched linen tablecloths, throwing fake plagues at each other, eating till we nearly spew. Ah, memories.
Actually, ALL of the hugeness comes from the seders. Our seders. When we have elected, for one reason or another, to go to someone else’s house for seder, we always regret it later. It just isn’t the same. We love the freedom to be as casual, as obnoxious, as messy, and as loud as we want. And we love to sing. We’ve noticed lots of other families don’t really do all the songs, or they skip some part we consider crucial. I remember the first time I found out some families DON’T DO THE PLAGUES. I had no idea. We always do the plagues, meaning we wear costumes and act out the Exodus and throw little plastic plague representations at a designated Pharaoh. But we also always remember to make a big deal out of dipping our fingers in the wine right after, removing one drop of symbolic joy per plague in memory of the suffering of our enslavers, the ancient Egyptians. (Here, I make the announcement not to lick our fingers, to please, please wipe them on the paper napkin provided and not the ironed damask. I cannot help myself. It must be done.) I like this touch of compassion. I wish it were in the Megillah, too, but that’s another story.
This year, I fear, will be a smaller, quieter seder. I’ve been agonizing about the decision for weeks. The presence of an active (euphemism) Toddler and the recent family setbacks in general health, well-being and economy are conspiring to make this Passover more thoughtful, less wild. My fear is that I will look back at the calendar later and feel like we’ve “missed” Pesach, that we didn’t do it properly. But here is my compromise: we will do it properly, and we will do it only for us. We will polish the silver and iron the damask and kasher the whole house. We will switch the dishes. We will do bedikat chametz and burn the token cheddar bunnnies in the barbeque outside. We will unpack the hundreds of frogs I save for decor (including the giant frog motion-detector that croaks when anyone walks by and the terrycloth frog toilet seat cover we use as a hat). We will dress in costume and fight over who gets to wear the glittery nemes headdress. We will listen to the Toddler sing the 4 questions and weep. We will find a kosher stew hen and make matzah ball soup. We will grate the horseradish root (chrain) and wear safety googles even though they do not prevent hot tears sliding down our faces. We will make Aunt Evy’s chicken and the traditional sides. We will make charoset together and remember to take the stickers off the apples first. We will sing the Hallel in a fake Yemenite yodel and think of Bubbe doing this in all earnestness at her own seder far away, where she will be making guests gape or giggle depending on individual levels of self-control. And we will think of all our past seders with noisy friends, quiet family, people now dead, kids now grown. And we will be mindfully present, alive together, doing Passover.
I admit, it feels somewhat un-gracious, un-hospitable not to invite people, And I worry that my Teenager will feel cheated not to share her seder with her friends. But this is what must happen this year. It will still be a night unlike any other night, and I am finally looking forward to it.