Passover’s the holiday the modern American Jewish family can easily rally around. It has just the right dose of tradition, while not being overbearingly tedious. And it’s all centered around food, which really, when you get down to it, the common theme of all halfway respectable Jewish customs. Not surprsingly, it’s the holiday both my and Sarah’s family enjoy the most, once again causing the hobgoblin of compromise to rear its smirking head.
The crucial celebration of Passover is the first seder, which occurs on the first night. This is an event often attended by a good percentage of close family, and I’m afraid we’re not a stage yet where we can withstand the historical impact of combining tribes. So we alternate. Last year I was a guest at Sarah’s parents’ home; this year, it was Sarah’s turn to accompany me to my family’s celebration. In a move that put your most forward-thinking parade seat reservers to shame, my grandmother decided to take no chances and lay claim to our attendence by calling dibs on Passover back in October. She was not to be usurped.
Normally, we’d have to head down to Indy for any family event of mine, but due to having many cousins in the Chicago suburbs, my father opted to have the event up here. “Here,” of course, meaning the subterranean conference room of a suburban hotel. (Where else are you going to fit twenty nine Jews of hungry and impatient disposition and eastern European descent?) Since we weren’t leaving town, this offered Sarah’s parents the unique opportunity to lay claim to our attendence at the second night’s seder—an unprecedented yet fiendishly clever move. In all fairness, it turned out to be less of a seder and more of a pleasant evening disguised as a seder. There was only a pinch of the awkwardness found a normal event, and thrice the good food.
Sarah, meanwhile, survived the first night’s festivities with grace and aplomb, and with barely a nag about her glaring lack of finger jewelry. (My grandmother is fond of saying, “I like everything about you, Sarah… except for one thing.”) I managed to get through the evening with a few extra glasses of wine—It’s sort of an homage. My first-ever touch of tipsiness came with an illicit glass of Manishevitz at an early Passover—and the pleasure of horsing around with my multitude of four-year-old cousins.
Someday we’ll host our own seders, where we’ll get to interpret the traditions in our own special way. Until then, we’re obliged to remain free agents, traded from team to team. Each time, we get a little bit fuller, a little bit drunker, and learn a little bit more about where we both came from.