For over 25 years I cried every year when I mushed and mixed the Seder farfel dressing in the large wooden bowl belonging to my great-grandmother and namesake, Rae. Tears fell into the farfel dressing like prayers: Kaddish for those who wouldn’t be at our Seder, psalms of anxiety and hope for my children, my husband, my parents, the whole world. I am a Passover Person, and this was my rite of spiritual spring-cleaning. But the tears stopped abruptly three years ago when I prepared for the first family Seder since my Aunt Mary Ethel died. I didn’t understand why. I reasoned that it was apropos my aunt, whom I never once saw whimper or cry about anything, though she suffered hard knocks that destroy lesser women much sooner than her 84 years.
A few hours before the guests arrived, I realized that my tears were not all that had disappeared. I had set a beautiful table like my mother taught; caught myself when I set the first goblet, and switched hands from the left to the right. “Your mother puts them on the left, but she is wrong. You are supposed to place the glasses on the right.” Aunt Mary Ethel’s stern rebuke happened 20 years ago. She had been gone six months, but her heavily accented Alabama voice sounded as clear in my ears as if she stood next to me. For the finishing touch, I went to the closet to get the box with the books, and it wasn’t there.
The Haggadahs had vanished. What happened to them? I knew I put them there last winter when I moved them from the bottom shelf of an antique buffet I had given to one of our grown children. I put them in a box, I remember. Where could they be? Panicked, I searched every closet, the garage, under the beds. How could two-dozen books disappear?
Thirty people would soon crowd my living room for our annual ritual symbolizing freedom and redemption, and we had no script. This was much worse than the year my Seder was threatened by the putrid sick smell of a large dead thing in my attic. The exterminator hauled away the carcass of a raccoon, apologized that he couldn’t take the smell with him, and lamely recommended that I might want to burn cinnamon candles. What made that night different from all other nights was that Pesach smelled like Christmas.
Panic turned into breathless madness. I retraced my steps. I moved of all the Pesach stuff—the books, the plastic frogs and bugs and ping pong balls and plastic sunglasses, the laminated Seder plates made in preschool—put it all into a large plastic container. The Haggadahs didn’t fit, so I found another box. I am absolutely, positively certain that I put all the Haggadahs in this closet. Who moved them? I steamed through my home looking high and low, sweating, angry. My poor husband shrugged his shoulders, accustomed to the last minute Seder craziness. The doorbell rang, guests arrived, no Haggadahs. Out of my mouth spilled words I never thought I’d say let alone understood because they made absolutely no sense–until that very moment. “She’s schtupping me from heaven.”
Becoming a Passover Person
Passover People like me start to think about Seder months in advance. We clean, buy, season, mix, mush, schlep, cook, set the table; we work so hard in advance to make the Seder that the ritual itself becomes an exhausted anticlimax. In the years since my tears vanished with the haggadahs, I have mused into Rae’s large wooden bowl about the original Passover People, the Israelite mothers who packed the children and tended to the elders while they roasted a lamb, made sure the husband put blood on the doorpost, kneaded dough that would never rise, and packed to leave Egypt. They had it much worse: they prepared in darkness so black and viscous that you could touch it, without a food processor, and with the Angel of Death breathing down their necks. The real miracle is that they actually got it together on short notice to leave Egypt at all.
I wasn’t genetically wired to become the Passover Person in my family. Neither of my American-born grandmothers ever prepared Seder, because they both worked fulltime alongside their husbands in small town businesses. Grandma Helen Schechter expressed her Judaism in Rosenberg, Texas when she anted her poker stakes in the Hadassah pushke with her girlfriends; she left it to “the help” to make a community Seder. My father’s abiding childhood memory from the 1930s: when he opened the door for Elijah, Sam the black porter entered with a tray of desserts.
My namesake Rae, Nana Rose Greenberg’s widowed mother, made their Alabama Seders. After Rae died, Nana Rose went to the homes of her children, and eventually her grandchildren. She never made a Seder, never offered to help, and ladled advice freely. “Stick your finger in the soup! Put a little of yourself in everything you do.”
My mother Joyce made lovely small Seders for our family in Waco when I was growing up. Her one big-Seder disaster happened when she her chicken soup turned rancid over night after someone turned off the stove. She swore off making Seders and became the Chanukah Person. We were “high Reform” as we used to joke, used the ancient old gray Union Haggadahs, and usually quit after the meal except for a rapid-fire “Only Kid”. After I visited several other family Seders as a young adult, I became starkly aware of my serious Passover deficits. But I loved this holiday, and if I ever intended to make a Seder myself, I needed a teacher.
“Watch Sister Sara,” Ginny advised me. Sara was my children’s Bubbie, the mother of my former husband. Ginny was Sara’s maid, and served as kitchen confidante to both her and her younger sister Becky. “Sister Sara will teach you, she sure will,” Ginny assured me.
Ginny knew the full back-story of Sara’s family’s never-ending Passover drama and actively facilitated its revelation to me it in morsels and nibbles as we helped Sara roll the cabbage, mush and mix the sweet and savory farfel dressings, and listened to her cuss a blue streak about Becky. Becky had a bigger house, a nicer dining room and more pristine china and silver. All Becky had to do was to set the table. Poor Sara did all the hard work, cooking for 25-30 people in her East Galveston Island kitchen, then schlepping it all the way to Becky’s West Island home, all with Ginny by her side.
Becky’s table sparkled with crystal that chimed when you ran your finger around the rim. Her sterling silver, polished to perfect clarity, reflected like a mirror. As the men droned through Seder at their own table, Sara seethed as Becky vigilantly waited for someone, likely one of Sara’s children or grandchildren, to spill wine on her dry-cleaned linen tablecloths. Ginny stood in the kitchen on watch gripping a bottle of club soda like someone anticipating a kitchen fire might clutch a fire extinguisher. The first tiny clink of crystal on the padded table worked Becky’s nerves so predictably that the drunken younger generation broke into laughter in anticipation of her shout, “Ginny! Bring the club soda!”
The bad mojo between the sisters lingered for a month or more both before and after the Seder, the bitter root of their mishigas perhaps resulting from the ghosts of Seders past. The time half-brother Joe came late because his wife was always late; how Papa’s anger erupted so forcefully that their many years of bad blood spilled all over the table. Then there was the Seder when cousin Carl dropped dead, face down into the chicken soup. And of course, the irritating presence of the wealthier wife of their youngest brother, the one Sara had to work to support through college and law school. I never got to go to college, was usually muttered during the blue streaks of cussing. When that sister-in-law died, only one of Sara’s two sons was invited to be pallbearer. That was when she raised her face and shook her fist full of hurt feelings at the ceiling, and said, “She’s still schtupping me from heaven.”
Sara taught me that people with whom you have long, complicated relationships haunt you forever. Family mishigas does not end with death; it simply enters another dimension.
The Pyrex Dish
The essential Aunt Mary Ethel tasted amazingly like her fruit compote, described by one as, “Not too sweet, but with a little kick.” She said what she meant, and meant what she said even when it was untrue or misinformed. Until her dying day and perhaps beyond, she never softened her dictum that what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours. Including, perhaps, the vanished Haggadahs.
Until I volunteered to take the job as family Passover Person (based on everything I had now learned from Sister Sara), our extended Schechter family had separate Seders. But I was a young mommy and enthusiastic about creating happy Jewish memories for my children. With Uncle Robert (Aunt Mary Ethel’s husband) boycotting Seder based on one unpleasant experience years before, and my parents retired in Austin, it was time for “the new,” as they called it. Mother and Aunt Mary Ethel willingly handed the job to me to become their “chief cook and bottle washer.” They turned their focus to perfecting their signature dishes, fresh gefilte fish for Mother, and fruit compote and horseradish for Aunt Mary Ethel, who could not abide store-bought horseradish. One of her annual jobs was to go to the H.E.B. (yes, Austin’s largest choice in kosher and Passover products is found at a supermarket named H.E.B.), buy the root, and make the proclamation. “This year they say the roots are not hot.” Or, “This year, it’s going to burn your insides out.”
Our family circle grew, and Seder at my house became the annual ritual. I added a dozen haggadahs to Mary Ethel’s dozen. She took hers back home every year until she got a backache. “Your Seders are too long, it hurts my back and I don’t want to lug them home. You keep them here, but just remember they’re not yours.” She wrote her name in hers and advised me to do the same, which I did in deference to my elders as I was taught. Every year after that, I noticed with mild irritation that the first thing Aunt Mary Ethel did was find a place at the table where the haggadah had her name in it. I had no idea that my irritation was minor compared to her irritation with me over my failure to return her Pyrex dish, the one in which she baked the fruit compote. I was busy, inattentive to details, and truthfully had no idea what Pyrex dish belonged to whom in my drawer full of Pyrex dishes belonging to me, to my mother, inherited from Nana Rose. Apparently, however, Aunt Mary Ethel considered this Pyrex dish a borrowed item, one that should have been returned without her asking.Only after many years passed and cancer robbed her civility did I learn that this ancient infraction had become a bitter complaint about me leveled at everyone in the family except me.
Four springs ago, we knew the coming Seder would be Aunt Mary Ethel’s last. I arranged for a large rented at a neighborhood bistro where the owner allowed us to bring our own food and wine–a huge schlep for me. With two turkeys, a brisket, many pans of roasted vegetables and farfel dressing, I undoubtedly used the Pyrex dish. The entire extended family came, out-of-town family, family of family, ex-spouses and their partners. “The whole macha tuchus!” said my father. Everyone agreed then, and to this day, Aunt Mary Ethel’s last Seder blowout was the best Seder ever.
My aunt was too sick that night to see if her haggadah had her name was in it. She left before Seder was over; she never said thank you. Reasonably I understood her exhaustion came from illness, and that her mind was no longer entirely intact. Yet, despite my focused, loving intentions, when all the cooking, cleaning, lifting, packing, driving, and schlepping was done, I cussed Sara’s blue streak. I realized then that Sara’s vexation wasn’t jealousy over Becky’s crystal and china and bigger dining room, or PTSD over past Seder mishaps. It was sheer exhaustion showing its nasty flatulence in the face of ingratitude, whether real or imagined.
The haggadahs have never resurfaced, and the ritual of searching for the vanished books has replaced my annual tears in the farfel; perplexity and wonder at the mystery surrounding us all has replaced anxiety, hope and grief essaycaptain help. I like to believe that my beloved aunt exonerated me for the sin of not returning her Pyrex dish with that one lingering, loving squeeze of the hand after I apologized to her the night before she died.
Years pass, I remain troubled. Passover People do not lose two-dozen books, and on some primitive level I actually believe she took those books with her. I wonder: If it really were possible for her to take the books with her (of course it’s not, is it?), would it be to prove a point? What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours? Then why take my books too? For good measure? Interest accrued on the unreturned Pyrex dish? Or one last parting cosmic joke? Or was it just her way of shooing us forward without her with a new script on our annual family journey? “Life goes on,” she might say, “Deal the cards and get on with it.”
It is time once again to pull down Rae’s large wooden bowl. It knocks on the counter like a knock on the door when I mix and mush the farfel dressing, and I think of a silly pun, l’dor v’dor. I search for that something sweet to add when I stick my finger in the soup, and wonder what the antidote is to the bitterness stirred by the Angel of Death hovering outside our door? And I laugh out loud at the thought of setting my beautiful table with the new haggadahs, purchased by my cousin and I with the promise that we will never write our names. Ces deux différents jeux de jeux qu’on retrouve dans les navigateurs d’internet. En dehors de vraies stratégies de ces deux grands logiciels proposés par l’avènement des technologies comprennent en effet mis en place de casino. Quelques avantages des jeux. Grâce à découvrir l’univers des jeux gratuits de communiquer avec le . Grâce à découvrir l’univers des paris et d’ambiance de faire le joueur peut le constater, les casinos gratuit ? L’arsenal de casinos en ligne. Les jeux de réelles mises. Comment accéder aux joueurs d’économiser du jeu de casino en ligne. Il faut souligner que les mêmes moments de .