March 28, 2007
By the time I was in high school, having seder with the whole family at my parents' house was tricky. We had long since outgrown their dining room, or even their living room. One year we rented a fancy white canvas tent, along with banquet tables and white folding chairs, and had seder in the courtyard beside the pool. And one year we rented a house, and held seder there.
Maybe it was 1990, which would have made me just barely fifteen. That was the year of Flood, the year of my first kiss and my summer in Lannion, though as seder approached both of those were still unimaginable. I remember walking down the street our rented house was on, in the hot sunshine of Texas spring, feeling in my body a sudden awareness of that very living moment, what it felt like that Passover was almost here.
In those days my springs sparkled with the dual festivals of Passover and Fiesta. Spring meant Texas mountain laurel and and cascarones along with matzah and maror. Shop windows bloomed with Easter hats and dresses. I'd come home from school to find the boxes of Passover dishes down from their storage-place, matzah balls by the dozens cooling in huge foil pans. By Pesach-time my friends and I might already be "laying out" after school, beginning the summer's tan.
Pesach in the north has a different feel. We're just shaking off the snowy robe of winter. The chickadees and juncos are joined by robins, bluebirds. Our forsythia bush, planted one year during Passover, is silently preparing to burst. (I took this photo precisely a year ago -- though I could have taken an identical one when I walked the perimeter of our yard just now.) Snow might still come, but it's lost its bite. Something new is almost here.
My seder now is different from the seders I knew then. This year my table will be filled with friends, not cousins. In lieu of the old unchanging Silverman, the haggadah I use now aims to marry the traditional liturgy with contemporary readings and interpretations -- one part classical text, one part poetry, one part Jewish liberation theology.
Still, when I shop today for eggs and matzah and kosher-for-Pesach macaroons, I'll inhabit again the excitement that has always marked this season for me. We ourselves are always being brought-forth from the narrow places into the wild open spaces of our freedom. We're going to walk in a mixed multitude across the ocean floor and into new life. Let all who are hungry come and eat! It's almost time to begin anew.