Thursday, April 09, 2009

Crazy wonderful

I love Passover.  It ranks up there with Thanksgiving on my list of favorite holidays, and for many of the same reasons.  The gathering of family.  The chronicling of what everyone has been up to, and how the kids have grown and changed.  The noise and chaos.  The rituals.  The traditions and symbols, particularly the tradition of being thankful for your freedom and of committing to work for the freedom of others.  It's a nice blending of religious themes with the kinds of democratic ideals that embody what I love about being American.

And I'm not a religious Jew -- I struggle mightily with concepts of God and sanctity and even Jewish chosen-ness (as much as I like the idea of being part of a special group).  But I love Passover, and I love being Jewish at Passover.  

Celebrating Passover this year presented a bit of a dilemma.  We couldn't afford to fly to Washington to celebrate with my parents.  Both of my cousins are out of town this week, so crashing one of their seders was out.  And though I love hosting seder myself, the current state of our kitchen made the prospect more than a little daunting.  Specifically, we have less than half of the cupboard space in our new kitchen that we had in our kitchen in Hawaii, so we're scouring Craigslist for inexpensive hutches or chests that we can use to store dishes, glassware, linens and what-have-you.  In the meantime, everything is a jumble.  I have no idea where most of my cooking utensils and tools are, where my spring-form pan is (for flourless chocolate torte), where my roasting pan is (for brisket), etc.

So, it really wasn't going to happen at our house without me going completely insane.  But the thought of not having a seder to go to made me really, really sad.

Kathleen to the rescue.

Kathleen is friends with a couple that she met on the street one day.  Their names are Alison and Pablo.  And they are Jewish.*  Kathleen jokes that she needed Alison to meet me to give her (Kathleen) some Jewish street cred, because apparently, Alison appeared a bit taken aback by the Christmas decorations Kathleen had up in her house around Christmas-time.  Kathleen wanted me to provide assurance to Alison that Kathleen was cool and not a weird religious nut.

So basically, it was inevitable that Alison and I would meet and be friends.

Kathleen and Alison were talking over the weekend, and Kathleen mentioned to Alison that I was looking for a place to go for Passover seder.  Alison told Kathleen that Jason and Zeke and I would be welcome to join her and her family at her mother's house.  I thought that sounded lovely.  Kathleen and Alison and I met up for drinks so that Alison and I would at least meet before I showed up at her mother's house with my family in tow, and we took to each other immediately.  

The evening was crazy and wonderful.  The seder itself was a bit haphazard.  We were trying to get through the Haggadah, but there were kids running around everywhere and then Alison's mom and her mom's husband started serving food, even though it wasn't technically time yet, and we tried to keep it going but finally we gave up.  But the food was delicious and Zeke had a great time playing with Alison's children and we got to meet and hang out with Alison's husband, Pablo, who is terrific.  Pablo's mother, who only speaks Spanish, was visiting from Argentina, so she and I spoke Spanish all night.  By the end of the night, it was as if we had all known each other for years.

One of my favorite Passover traditions is the emphasis on taking in strays -- Jews who are new in town or far from home, who need a seder to go to.  I've always loved being able to play host in the past, and it was lovely to have it come full circle and be able to feel at home at a seder, even when I'm far from my family and on unfamiliar turf.

Happy Passover, everyone.  Next year in Jerusalem....
*Pablo is originally from Argentina, and his family got there after escaping from Poland to Spain, leaving Spain because of the civil war in the 1930s, going to France, and eventually making their way to South America.  Amazingly, our ancestors are from similar areas in Eastern Europe, and his last name is a very close derivation of my dad's family's name before it was anglicized at Ellis Island.  I suspect that we are distant cousins.  


1 comment:

  1. Happy Pesach, Wendy! I'm glad that you're somewhere where you can have a Seder and enjoy the traditions of the holiday.