There was relief in not having to fight the traffic to get to my aunt's house in Staten Island for Passover. As Brooklyn natives (neither of whom still live in Brooklyn;) why she ever moved to that unspeakable borough is one of the many perennial topics of discussion I could have expected to have with my cousin Leslie, had we all met there, as we do every year. The house would have been crowded and noisy with familiar people and yet another new puppy (to which I am allergic.)
My aunt's home is filled with her impressive artwork and an excess of cut glass that rings a bit as many come in, first walking through the kitchen to give kisses hello, and then into the dining room to visit, and perhaps help set the table. My mother would have opened the wine immediately upon her arrival. There would be the sound of the gold and crimson-edged china being taken from its protective covering and placed in a stack on the hand-stitched tablecloth and the sound of clattering silver coming out of the case it lives in, in large clumps. My sister would be deciding on the right order to put the silver in around each plate.
The living room would already be full of people, and more would arrive. Eventually we'd assemble around the beautifully laid table to start our Seder.
It would be raucous, as we went around the circle, taking turns reading the familiar text with energy. Contentious, as we wrestled with the implicit patriarchy in the language of the Maxwell House Haggadah; some changing God to Goddess and he to she and they—to the irritation of the more traditional among us. We would make much of the math of Adonai's fingers at sea, and have a great time with the Plagues, and the singing of Dayeinu.
My heart would stop as ever as, with our glasses raised we read: "For not only one enemy has risen against us to annihilate us, but in every generation, there are those who rise against us" and we put those glasses back down, untasted.
I would have spent this night, both the same and different from other nights, at my mother's and spent the next day with her too, (at wracking labor), cooking and preparing to do it all again at her place the second night. But this year, pestilence.
As I walked the circle of my driveway, the day before Passover, in the early morning quiet, reminding myself to count my many blessings, I looked at the spring greens and bitter herbs coming up in my yard. And I remembered the Seder plate I've never used, that once was Tracy's mom's. I thought about what was in the fridge and pantry and realized I could do this.
I could make my own Seder.
And so I did. I became very busy!
I researched Haggadahs online. I engaged with the texts, thought about what they said, looked things up. I worked on my Seder plate, chopped apples, pecans, and dates for charoset, and walked around the yard, picking spring greens and bitter herbs. This part was really fun.
I rendered chicken fat and made kneidel with matzoh meal left over from last year. They came out so good I was annoyed I couldn't enter them into the "who makes the best kneidel?" family discussion. (Not that I would have won, ever, no matter how good they were.)
Near sunset on the first night, with the promise of wine, I convinced my not-so-willing and not at all Jewish significant other to sit down with me. We performed the rituals and I read the story of Passover aloud to him. He repeated the Four Questions after me. He toasted Cthulhu, he complained and he heckled, and he did an amazing impression of the Simple Child. And somehow it was very right.
Next Year in Staten Island!
Laura Rose is a retired teacher and the broker at Laura Rose Real Estate, in Gardiner.