Monday evening was the first night of Passover. (Don't be fooled by what most calendars say, Jewish holidays start at sundown on the night before the first day of the holiday.) Ellen graciously agreed to host this year, and we divvied up the cooking and other responsibilities.
For those of you not familiar with Passover, it is a bit like Jewish Thanksgiving in that both holidays involve foods and activities that vary from family to family, but which MUST be done for the celebration to feel complete. In the years since Chris and I returned to Portland, we have celebrated Passover with Ellen and Jiro, and it is our tradition that Chris makes brisket, Ellen makes a lovely vegetarian stock, and I swoop in at the last minute with matzo balls. (Great, huh? Ellen spends hours and days making stock, and I get to whip up a mix.) I usually make the charoset, but Ellen was kind enough to make it this year. Ada and I made a lemon nut cake on Sunday, so we didn't entirely shirk our responsibilities.
No matter that the event was a little chaotic and messy, I had a great time. Maybe even more so because of the mess, which is, after all, my style. There was a little bump when we realized we did not have any matzo, but friends were sent out to retrieve some (thank goodness we don't live in a place with more Jews, or we'd REALLY be out of luck) while I conducted a short seder with the kids.
Last year I told the Passover story to Ada and Monkey Boy, and they were riveted by the plagues. This year was not much different. This year, Ada and MB were joined by Monkey Boy's One True Love. I recounted the tale to the kids, from the burning bush (Isn't that crazy? AND IT TALKED!) to the plagues (frogs EVERYWHERE, plopping on people's heads, landing in their soup!) and exit from Egypt (though I did change "slaying of the first born" to "the kids got really sick" and said the Pharaoh's soldiers were forced to swim downstream when the water closed in on them, instead of saying they drowned). The real highlight was the four of us running to the front door, throwing it open and yelling "Welcome Elijah! Come on in!" The kids asked lots of questions, got excited by my colorful commentary on the plagues, and even got a little heavily diluted wine to go with their ceremonial meal. When we were done, the kids ran amok while the grown-ups started the main seder.
A number of years ago I put together a hybrid hagaddah and every year since then I have meant to revise it. Let's just say, this was not the year that was going to happen. So we limped along as usual, but happily so. As commanded, we drank a lot of wine (pouring for one another as is the tradition of some good friends from the east coast) and kibbitzed a lot. When we talked about appreciating the freedom we take for granted, and recognizing the holy in the everyday, I read the footnote to Howl. (Reading this aloud to a group is definitely facilitated by drinking two large glasses of wine first.) At one point we somehow got into a heated conversation about men who are sub-par lovers due to failures that if discussed here will get the blog a lot of funky traffic. One of the male guests brought this up, in case you were wondering.
And we ate. We ate ceremonially (wow, love that horseradish) and for fun. We ate Chris' delicious brisket and Ellen's fantastic soup while we continued to drink. (hmm, maybe that whole b-x licking conversation wasn't so surprising after all.) I got to use my silly ancient rabbi-accent and laugh a lot.