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Posts Tagged ‘Seder’

The big move was done in little pieces. We ferried small things over in our car piece by piece, the ubiquitous Pod was delivered and emptied by a team of BellHops, then finally Music City Movers emptied our townhouse. Ten days later I threw a Seder for family and friends – 17 altogether. To say I’m exhausted would be missing the point; I’m feeling like I got hit by a truck and I don’t have the flu….

Remember that book we all read years ago, required reading in every high school English class, “The Things They Carried.”

Twenty years ago, writer Tim O’Brien released a book of stories about young men and war, his war, Vietnam. Among many other things, he listed the weight of each soldier’s clothes, canteens and can openers. From the book: Every third or fourth man carried a claymore antipersonnel mine, 3.5 pounds with its firing device. They all carried fragmentation grenades, 14 ounces each. They all carried at least one M-18 colored smoke grenade, 24 ounces. Some carried CS or tear gas grenades. Some carried white phosphorous grenades. They carried all they could bear and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125128156

I’ve been reevaluating all the things I’ve carried around with me from my glory days as a new wife and mother in Massachusetts, to moving back to NJ when the Rocker was just 2 and unpacking was almost impossible, to building our small house overlooking the Blue Ridge in Virginia. Then finally the fantastical move to Nashville, leaving Bob to sell most of our furniture to the new owners of our house, while I stayed here on Nana duty.

Unlike Great Grandma Ada, who cocooned in her home for fifty years collecting the things her two sisters left behind, I’ve had ample opportunity to prune and shed the things that were weighing me down.

I still carry: some of the school papers from my children; the Bride’s baby dresses; a big, antique French cupboard; the heron and guinea hen prints, the kilt I was wearing when I first met Bob; my 1960s avocado green mixer; my 60s blue Dutch oven, the one I found in a store in Cambridge, MA, the same store I’d see Julia Child shopping in from time to time, it’s a heavy workhouse of a pot that found its way back into my heart during Seder prep; the oil painting the Bride did of us on Windsor Pond; the Rocker’s self-portrait from high school. All the old photographs.

And my beautiful desk, the one I’m writing on just now. I’ve missed it for 2 years.

I’ve carried all I can bear, but still the Bride insisted on “Marie Kondoizing” me. She dumped piles of clothes on my bed and asked me, one by one, if they sparked joy?! “Mom, you have two similar black Eileen Fisher dresses, which ONE do you want?”

I was resistant at first, but then I saw how my style, me weight, my essence had changed over the years. No woman wants to be stuck in the same hair style their whole life, and I could finally see that “Pittsfield-me” was too Laura Ashley, “Rumson-me” was too Lilly Pulitzer, and “Nashville-me” is something entirely different. I thanked my dated clothes for their faithful service and bid them farewell.

Bob has always traveled light, and so he was happy to see the Big Purge, but to my surprise he kept a few sentimental things of his own.

We are ready to tackle the garden now, to plant and transplant, to install the fairy house. I hope y’all had a wonderful Passover and Easter weekend and you’re looking ahead to blue skies and warmer days. Ms Bean has her favorite sunny spot on the porch, and I just might join her!

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  1.  There is nothing better than women in pink pussy hats coming together in Washington, DC to speak their minds, run for office, and begin the #MeToo movement
  2. Well, maybe the Rocker and Aunt Kiki’s wedding was at the top of my happiness list; a magical, mystical Palm Springs wonderland with family
  3. I’m not afraid to ask for help. Hiring a stylist to help me organize my closet, and a concierge to help with the move were important and essential decisions
  4. I CAN DO a Passover Seder – of course, it will never be like Great Grandma Ada’s but it was a good first attempt
  5. My fear of travel was replaced by my love for the South of France, and Mario and Claudio’s perfect pairings of market tours and cooking classes
  6. Downsizing and moving from the country to the city of Nashville in the summer was daunting, but those grandbabies are so worth it; and I learned to hold on to the bannister while going downstairs
  7. And finally, as I approach seventy with my best friend by my side, I realize that we’re in this for good, bad and ugly. And my intention for 2018 is to strive for the Good!

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What is it about this time of year? I realize it just recently snowed some up North, but traveling from VA to TN yesterday Bob and I witnessed Spring in all her glory. White Bradford pear trees are in bloom, and forsythia are bursting into their yellow coats. Last night birds were trumpeting us into the Music City; later, we played on the front porch with the Love Bug and said “Hey” to neighbors walking children and dogs.

Great Grandma Ada and Hudson will arrive today with Uncle Jeff for Friday night’s seder. With Cousin Sue gone, it doesn’t make sense for Ada to slave away in the kitchen for days just to celebrate a holiday about leaving slavery behind. In her 90th year she deserves to relax, it’s about time the younger generation took over. This year we skipped the Blue Ridge mountains   because the Groom is on call in the MICU. For the first time in 36 years, I bequeath the haroses to the Bride!

Here is my recipe:

Mix together 2 or 3 chopped apples with chopped walnuts, raisins, dried apricots and dates. Add a smidgen of Kosher wine and honey and voila, you have the condiment of condiments. The stuffing for your Hillel sandwich.

I brought along my seder plate from the Berkshires. It was thrown by a friend’s husband, Thomas Hoadley, http://thomashoadley.com/bio an exceptional potter. I remember when Bob was chasing after a cat and accidentally knocked it off a shelf in Windsor, MA. I was so heartbroken because it was the very first piece of real art I had ever picked out myself, and it was someone we knew, someone we sat with on a blanket at Tanglewood. Luckily, his wife Stephanie supplied me with another! https://www.hoadleygallery.com

We won’t hide eggs, but we will hide matzoh for the children. Cousin Jenny’s new baby girl will have to wait to meet the Love Bug’s now 5 month old brother. I am always surprised to think that right at sundown, all over the world, Jews will be sitting down to this dinner theatre. The equivalent might be if Christians everywhere sat down to dinner at the exact hour all over the world on Christmas Eve, but before they ate someone would recite the story of how they managed to survive all these years. No junior, no food for you until we recite all the saints and what they had to endure to remain Christian.

Only eventually Christians became the dominant religion in the West. After reading the Atlantic’s front page article, “Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/03/is-it-time-for-the-jews-to-leave-europe/386279/ about the rise of hatred and anti-semitism, I feel bereft.

The previously canonical strain of European anti-Semitism, the fascist variant, still flourishes in places. In Hungary, a leader of the right-wing Jobbik party called on the government—a government that has come under criticism for whitewashing the history of Hungary’s collaboration with the Nazis—to draw up a list of all the Jews in the country who might pose a “national-security risk.” In Greece, a recent survey found that 69 percent of adults hold anti-Semitic views, and the fascists of the country’s Golden Dawn party are open in their Jew-hatred.

Is it possible that in the future the only safe place to be Jewish will be in Israel? The ratio of Jew to Arab in France is 1 to 10. Instead of saying Je Suis Charlie, one commentator said, we should be saying, “Je Suis Juif!”

And instead of fighting over which Islamic sect has dibs on their prophet, has dominance and power in the Middle East and Africa,, maybe Muslims around the world should begin to remember their shared values over dinner at Ramadan. I’m pretty sure they would not include flying planes into buildings or suicide vests.

When we break bread together, or matzoh, we can see into each other’s souls. Have a peaceful Easter/Passover weekend. I can only wish that my grandchildren – that ALL our grandchildren – will be able to live without fear. To not always have a bag packed.     IMG_2398

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Kugels are being frozen, matzoh balls rolled, and families are getting ready to gather again for their annual Seder. It’s been a rite of passage for me ever since I married into my husband’s huge Jewish family. Don’t get me wrong, my stepfather was Jewish, but the Irish Flapper didn’t do Passover. This holiday is unlike anything else, it can’t be compared to Easter, because Easter was a direct result of the Last Supper, which was a Passover Seder, if you get the drift. This is more like a Jewish Christmas. Everybody has got to get home for the Seder.

We sit around a large table and tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt and our path to freedom. There are prayers and songs and finally food. Every single Jewish family around the world is going to be doing this in eight days. My specialty, as you all know, is the haroses – a delicious condiment of apples and dried fruit meant to symbolize the bricks and the labor that was used while our people were slaves. It happens to be the star attraction on Grandma Ada’s Seder plate.

I remember my first Seder with the Baby Bride, 1980, like it was yesterday. Driving from the Berkshires back to NJ. All the relatives cooing over her, holding her, giving her presents. A great tradition was being passed down and I knew it was important to pay attention. Bob would one day lead the Seder, recline at the head of the table, and ask questions just to keep us on our toes. Last year the same rituals were repeated, only the Love Bug stole the show.

But this year we’ll be missing our north star. Judith married Ada’s nephew after a long and hard divorce. She brought him back to us, a happier healthy man. She was a counselor, whose smile could light up a room. A devout Jew, her parents had survived the Holocaust with numbers on their arms to prove it. It was the first time I had ever seen that horrific symbol, alive on a real person, not in a history book. And yet, somehow, they raised an angel of light.

Judith, the woman who brought a profound sense of meaning to our gathering every year, died yesterday. Her Hebrew kept Bob on track during the Seder, she would be the one to lead us through long passages, to sing without having to look at the words. Her Judaism was a living breathing tribute to her parents. Her loving spirit a balm to her husband and her son, her stepdaughters and her grandchildren. And I can’t tell you how many times she took me aside at the Seder to reassure me on my road through this long and winding family dynamic – to tell me that everything will be alright. These are just rough passages, we’ll plow through.

She battled cancer with the ferocity of her Biblical namesake. She was too young, too kind, it was too soon. And this Seder, along with all the rest to come when the Love Bug brings her baby to meet the  family, Judith will always be remembered.

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