24 April 2006

My Family Seder

Baruch Atah Adonai Elohaynu Melech Ha'olam borei p-ri ha-gafen.

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

My family sings the prayer, following it with an Amen, and we sip our wine.

Sunday my family had a belated Passover Seder. My brother Chris and his wife Carrie came from PA with their kids, my niece Chelsea, and my beautiful baby nephew Max. My sister Sandra and her husband David came in from the city, and my dad's (well, technically my step-dad) cousin Matthew came with his wife Angela and their daughter Hilary also from the city. And there was me, my mom, and step-dad, Brian, too of course.

The weather that day started off miserably- raining and foggy, but by late afternoon, it warmed up considerably and the sun was shining brightly. I drove home from school, with a basket of laundry in tote, and arrive shortly after my brother.

It’s a pleasant scene in the living room: my brother and sister in-law sitting on the couch while my parents prepare some appetizers. Chelsea’s sitting by her mom while Max is on the floor playing with some hula-hoops my mom got for Chelsea and Hilary. Max has gotten so big since I saw him in March! He’s almost 14 months old now already. And walking all over getting into so much trouble! lol

I remember when I first saw him after he was born. I took a train into the city on a very, very cold March afternoon, and spent a couple of hours visiting. I held him in my arms and he was so beautiful, so tiny. He was first nephew, so he was extra special. My other brother has 3 little girls, and Chris already had little Chelsea. He’s easily the most beautiful baby boy I’ve ever known. And I say that completely without bias. ;)

Max smiles when sees me coming towards him to give him a big hug and kiss. I lift him up and give him kisses all over producing the sweetest giggles from him. I place him back on the floor and move to give my brother and sister in-law a kiss hello and giving Chelsea a big hug and kiss hello too.

It was around 12:30 by the time I arrived, but we weren’t eating until 3:30. I was starving since I hadn’t eaten since Thursday, no wait, it was Wednesday (I’m bad about making time to eat, especially when it’s gross college food) so I steal a latke (a potato pancake for all you goyim (that would be non-Jews)), you know, to make sure it isn’t poisoned or undercooked or something. Mmm, they were just fine! But I count them and there are only 28!

“Why didn’t you make more latkes?” I complain.
“Well there are only 12 of us, so even if everyone has 2, that's only 24" my step-dad explains.
"And that would only leave me 4! You know I like to take a bagfull back to school."
"Well you can always make more"

The next few hours are just spent chatting, catching up, and enjoying the kids. Chris and Carrie have put their house up for sale and have had a bid accepted on another house and they’re looking to close in 60 days. Max totters around, fascinated by our two big dogs. He laughs and claps when the come up and sniff his face. Chelsea slowly gets over her fear of them where she can be in the same room without whining about it.

My sister Sandra and David arrive next around 3. We’re just waiting for Matt and his family, but we get a call saying they’re in a town 30-45 minutes Southwest of our house, but they’ll be there soon. We all scratch our heads trying to figure out how in the world they got there! Turns out, we find out later, they missed our exit and continued straight on 80 until the Delaware Water Gap!

My cousins finally arrive a bit after 4 and we sit to start our dinner. We begin with, of course, matzah ball soup, holding off on beginning the Seder until my brother comes back from trying to put Max asleep. When he returns, we all gather around, but let the girls go play outside and pick dandylions.

My step-dad starts with the blessing of the wine and begins talking about our journey out of the desert and now our journey through life. It's not the destination or where we're coming from that matters, but what we go through getting there. Brian starts breaking off the parsley and dipping it in the salt water when he asks me to talk about sacrifice. Not a subject of expertise for me. I struggle and sputter out sacrifice is when we give up little things for a bigger and more important goal. I notice there's dirt on my plate under the parsely.

"Um, Brian, did you wash the parsley?"
"I thought I did."
"Um, well there's dirt on my plate and I can see it in the bowl!"
He shrugs and keep passing the last few bits

Everyone at the table looks at the sprig in their hand before placing it down and wiping their plate with a napkin. Brian moves on cutting the marror (horseradish) and placing it on the charoset and matzah. He then asks my sister to talk about what this means. She explains it's taking the bitter with the sweet in life. The egg is passed to David as he talks about it symbolizing life and rebirth, and that also on the vernal equinox you can stand the egg on its end.

Next comes the meal. Brisket and latkes- my favorite. I look forward to Hannukah and Passover always for this meal. I take a good serving of meat and latkes, quickly getting seconds. We eat, talk, and drink. My family.

We get dessert not too long after we finish dinner since it's late and people have to drive back to the city and to PA. Brian made apple crisp. Now, usually I love apple crisp. But Brian's not much of a baker. Out of this world cook, but horrible baker. I take one bite and discreetly discard it in my napkin, giving my mom the "Why does he bake?" look. lol

The evening winds down as my parents do dishes and put food away while the families start packing up. I take Max in my arms trying to keep him smiling since he's a little cranky from not napping. My mom plays peek-a-boo with him as I hug him close giving him kisses. He's my greatest love right now, lol. I show him off and talk about him to everyone. And if it weren't for the sake of annonymity, I'd post a big picture here. Though, picture the gerber baby and you're not far off... Now I love all my nieces and him equally, but you gotta admit- there's just something about a baby!

When Chris and Carrie are getting ready to leave I kiss Max and tell him I love him before handing him to his daddy (he's been very attached to his dad lately). I pick up Chelsea and carry her to the car.

"So I'm coming to babysit in 2 weeks you know. And we're gonna have lots of fun, right?" I tell her.
She nodds her head.
"Can we play dolls?"
"Awesome. I love you so much, you know that?"
She nods.
I kiss her and put her down as she runs to the car. I kiss them one more time once they're settled in their car seats.
"See you in 2 weeks and love you guys!" I say to Chris and Carrie. I've been really trying to always tell the people I love that I love them.
We hug, kiss, and send our love with the rest of the family leaving. My family.

I've been thinking about my family a lot lately. In the past few years, the past few months, and the past few days. As I'm getting older I'm trying harder to develop adult relationships with my parents and siblings, and relationships with my siblings independant of my parents. It's easier with some of my siblings than with others. Some I'm closer to, and some are just more open to the growth. Then there are some who are too self-involved to give a fuck about their little sister.

And I've been thinking about grandparents goo. Of all my parents' parents, the only one I knew was my dad's dad. And he lived in CA so I didn't see him much. Plus he was cranky. I was in the 7th grade when he died. My dad's mom died in the 70's. My mom's dad died at 46 from lung cancer. I repeat: my grandfather died at 46 from lung cancer. From smoking for 30 years. My mom's mom died when I was 10 months old. I never really knew her, but I love her, and I miss her. That left me with Brian's parents, who, although weren't necessarily the warmest people, loved me and treated me exactly like all their other grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I also had Nanny and Pop-pop, my half-sisters' (from my dad) grandparents. They only lived a few minutes walk from my dad's so I spent a lot of time there, usually playing with my "cousin" who was the only girl on that side close to my age. I still remember Nanny always had vanilla pudding in cups in the fridge. Sometimes she'd make jell-o too. And she'd make box macaroni and chesse, but she'd get the deluxe kind where you squeeze the cheese out of the packet. I had it recently, but it just didn't taste the same. My cousin and I would climb the trees, roll down the huge hill in the back yard, and slide down the cellar door. Then eventually came my step-mom's parents. I'm not that close with them, but things are always nice when they come on holidays and stuff for dinner. Michael, my step-mom's step-dad, is the typical Jewish grandfather. We used to play scrabble everytime he came, but he'd always score at least double what I would. But then again he was a doctor and I was an 8th grader. I do regret we've stopped playing. And he always asks about school since he audited some classes there a few years ago.

Then Grandma, my step-mom's mom, was diagnosed with cervical cancer this month. And by the time they found it, it had already spread to her stomach and some of her lungs. They're treating it with chemo, and she's had two rounds already. She's lost all her hair, but she wears a wig and my dad says she's optimistic. My dad also said the doctors estimate about a year. And Michael is aging. 86. And his health is slowly declining too, so we won't have much more time with him either. And this hit me only just Saturday. I was driving into the city to see Jefferson, had just come out of the tunnel, and it dawned on me. She's dying. He's old. They're the only grandparents I have left, and I won't have any there when I get married. I choked back the tears since I was only 10 blocks from Jefferson's.

I have a mess of a family. People sometimes draw trees to visualize who comes from where. All of the kids come from different marriages. I'm the youngest and my mother's only child. Everyone else is much older me ranging in age from 34-41. But I love my family, and wouldn't have it any other way.

But this is my family Seder. Who comes changes from year to year. Even when it is can't be predicted. But there's always friends and family, a tradition I plan to continue for many, many years after I begin my own family.


Mitzi said...

My mother teaches nursery school. At our Seder she pulled out a small canvas tote bag and produced things like plastic frogs, and bugs as we read through the plauges.

Avah said...

Well my family is sooo secular I didn't know what the plagues were until last year! Nor did I set foot in a temple until I was 16!

Mitzi said...

We're not terribly religious. Cultural Jew's is more like it.