Kreplach hit the fan a few Passovers ago. Because ceiling fans are ugly and because triangular noodles filled with chopped meat are a no-go when it comes to keeping kosher for Passover, no, nothing actually hit the fan, but I wanted to hit Phil with a brick. If only certain behaviors were outlawed in the name of keeping things kosher.
I am anticipating the “I refuse to fight” fight that Phil will put up this year. Holding the successful field goal signal of a football referee, he’ll say, “I’m not involved.” Then, “Don’t look at me.”
My shoulders will fall. I will sigh. “Why can’t we just pull together on this?” My eyebrows will pinch together in a plead.
“‘Cause I want no part of it. It matters to you, not me. So, God-bless. Just leave me out of it.” Also known as, “You’ve made your bed; now fry in it.” If allowed to continue, he’ll bring the word “always” into play, ready with examples of how it’s never straightforward and easy with me.
“But it’s not like I care care. I mean, Passover is no Thanksgiving. I’m not going to obsess. Honestly, I don’t care if we just cater the thing.”
“So, now we’re catering an event?”
Money. He’ll be thinking about how much it will cost to bring in shitty food that no one really wants to eat in the first place. Okay, but we spent all that money, sending our children to Jewish pre-schools, where they learned prayers and songs. We even own a two compact disc set titled, “Pesaschtick: A collection of Family Passover Songs & Parodies,” featuring “Who Led The Slaves Out?” set to the tune “Who Let The Dogs Out.” “And that’s your doing,” he’d accuse. Damn right it’s my doing. Those songs are awesome.
When my first cousin hosted an enormous Christmas dinner at her home this past Christmas, I was over the moon. How wonderful to celebrate with family: she and her husband, her two brothers (also my first cousins), her FOUR kids, and my mom’s sister with her husband, 14 people in all. I love living so close to them, love that my beans have cousins that are kids. My cousins and I grew up spending every Christmas Eve and Christmas Day together. Their father is Italian, their mother (my mom’s sister) is half Puerto Rican, half Greek. So, Jews they are not. My cousins grew up coming to our home to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Passover, complete with a full (but likely very abbreviated) Seder.
Over a Christmas ham (and all homemade lasagna, and eggplant parm, and prime rib, not to mention all the homemade appetizers and Arthur Avenue Deli meats and cheeses), my cousin remarked how much she wanted to expose her kids to the Jewish traditions with which she grew up. Her first-born is being raised in her religion, Greek Orthodox, and her other three kids are being raised in her husband’s religion, Catholic. “Of course,” I said, “we’ll have you all over for the Seder this spring.” Shit. Shit. Shit.
Now, I must cook. I must organize. I must print Haggadoth (plural of Haggadah), or buy them somewhere. I bitch, but really, this is what I want out of life, right?! To make the memories, to have the dinners, to follow the traditions. Though this year my tradition might turn into calling a deli and using paper bowls and plates.
With my heavy reliance on “intuitive knowing”—thinking you know exactly what someone will say before they say it—I assume that what bothers Phil just as much, if not more, as being burdened when all he wants to do is relax from a stressful work week, is my taking any of my time to plan, coordinate, and shop for the occasion. “It’s time better spent writing,” he’d argue. Keeping up with the blog, or, dare we say, working on my actual book proposal, which I’ve once again abandoned. I’d argue that there’s room for both, but in truth, once I’m invested in something, I’m all paws on, and I don’t want to stop.
I’m like this with everything:
WRITING: Once I start writing, that’s it. In the zone. I don’t want to break, don’t want to shower, don’t want to feed the kids, pick up a phone, open the email, do anything but write. And if I am pulled away, it takes jumper cables and several attempts before I get going again—it’s why I never want to stop once I’ve started.
SHOPPING: Be it a new makeup product, car, or perfume scent, I obsess, needing to go out of my way searching for it, scouring web sites for reviews and comparisons, forcing Phil to smell strips of paper, where I’ve, yes, sprayed samples of every scent we own, to see what he favors.
CLEANING: Cleaning and organizing the kids’ playroom, updating their bookshelves with books for their reading levels, rummaging through a dress-up bin to make sure there aren’t any blocks or Lego’s, nothing out of place for too long—I do all of this with the kids, so they learn how important it is to be organized. But they’re also learning that once I start something, that’s that, she’s obsessed.
TEACHING: I learn about the new Singapore math program they’re teaching the kids at school, and I read, learn the methods, then scour the house for materials and manipulatives, making pipe cleaner bracelets with plastic beads for counting, stacking unifix cubes into bars of 10, at the ready to supplement their homework. Searching for a watercolor project, gathering the materials (salt, eyedroppers, plastic wrap and masking fluid)… always something, unless I’m writing… then there’s nothing.
So, why haven’t I formally extended the Passover invitation to my cousin yet? I think it’s because I know it takes work and planning and that once I get going, it just goes. Soon, I have the kids crafting Passover placemats, we’re off to the library searching for Passover children’s books, rooting for recipes, making grocery lists, food shopping, prepping the food, masterminding an oven organization schedule, so everything is timed correctly. Choosing outfits, cleaning, THERE IS NOTHING SMALL ABOUT THIS, and I’m not sure how to do something that requires minimal effort, or what that even looks like. I don’t know how to do easy without apologizing.
I’ll repeat that: I don’t know how to do easy without apologizing.
Does anyone set out paper plates and NOT comment on the fact that s/he has used paper plates? We’re not talking about a baby shower, here, just a family dinner… of 10 people, and wine glasses and water cups, and food, and cleaning the house… ordering the food, and making something, at least one thing, homemade. Freezing matzoh balls on a baking sheet in advance?
Why do I get so caught up in holidays?
The answer: because my mother always did. And whether or not I appreciated it at the time, they were all enchanting memories. I don’t recall my day-to-day, but I remember the homemade Seders (and she’s not even Jewish!), and all the work and cooking in advance, cleaning the house (being put in charge of Windexing the glass living room coffee table). I remember the company coming, the special outfits set out for us to wear, and I cherish those holidays more than perhaps anything else I was ever given! And I want to give my own children these same memories. Would the memories have been the same with everything catered and slapped together last minute? No. There would be affectionate memories of family and having company over, the buzz and delight of people, sure—but part of what I hold so dear in my memories is the element of “special.” Fine china was used, the good silver, special linens, crystal serving dishes, and my mother in a silk blouse. The event was elevated, time stopped, and magical memories were made in dress shoes. Can it really be the same?
Why, exactly, must they be the same? What makes one event more memorable than another? Doing something, anything, together—yes, even with paper bowls for the matzoh ball soup— is more memorable than doing away with it, passing over the Passover. So, if you can’t get your act together enough to cook a holiday meal for 10 people, act like you can. Dab on some new perfume, wear a silk blouse, and accessorize with a bottle of wine. Before that, though, you might want to have the actual conversation with your significant other.