I wish you all a meaningful and sacred Seder experience where time and space take you forward and backward. Do extend your prayers towards the possibility of freedom beyond our borders to all who need the miracles of the Exodus today. Chag Sameach V’Kasher.
Our annual seders were staged in the Bronx apartment where my maternal grandparents lived with my aunt, uncle and my two cousins. The living room was transformed into a festive dining hall where chairs and tables occupied the entire space. Once everyone was seated, it was difficult, if not impossible to move. Stuck at the Seder, we performed our rituals, sang our songs, recited the prayers and waited for our dinner. Sarah, our family housekeeper, prepared the plates from the overstocked kitchen and then passed them to the aunts, who passed them to the person at the end of the table who passed them down the table to the elders. The children were served last on smaller plates. During the passing of the plates. I stayed in my less than comfortable chair, taking in the heavenly smell of my mother’s fluffy matzo balls. Besides the food and the atmosphere of thanksgiving, I felt lucky to be squeezed between my cousins at this crowded but cozy Passover Seder.
My immigrant Polish family had survived the pogroms, the holocaust, poverty and humiliation. Behind each song was a story. I would not tease out their solemn stories until I was in my twenties when the seders of my youth became the seders of my past.
My grandparents passed away. My cousins married and moved away. One by one we evacuated the Bronx apartment building on Prospect Avenue and moved to our own separate neighborhoods. My uncle moved to New Jersey, my aunt to Riverdale, my other aunt to Co-op City and my parents to the Grand Concourse. Our congenial family dispersed itself throughout the Bronx. For decades, I would try to piece together this geographic jigsaw puzzle, albeit unsuccessfully.
Tonight, I will celebrate Passover at the home of my eldest daughter in Virginia. Three of my four children will accompany my seven grandchildren, three son-in-laws, my ex-husband, his brother and sister-in-law from Israel, plus two young friends. We are still dispersed geographically, but we deliberately come together to replicate and celebrate the Seders of our past. The seating will be more luxurious. The dining room with its long table and chairs will extend into the hallway and two more tables will be added. I will be the one serving instead of waiting to be served. We will sing the songs, perform the rituals and recite the prayers while we all anticipate the holy matzo balls, fluffy or hard. I will be content to be stuck at the Seder table with those I love.