In the Suburbs / Packing and passover — the perfect holiday blend
This Passover, amid boxes and crates and loose pieces yet to pack for our move in April, we will still take time out to celebrate this special holiday of freedom, the cycle of life, fertility and spring with our daughter and grandson (his first) and a close friend. My wife and I agreed that, despite how crazy things have been for us as we prepare for this move into our new home, we needed to maintain our tradition and celebrate this holiday. For one night, we’ll walk away from the chaos to pause, relax and reflect on how fortunate we are to be blessed with family and good friends, our health and the warmth of our home.
Unlike the feasts my wife has created over the past 47 years that we’ve been away from Chicago, we agreed our cuisine for this Passover feast will be very modified. Sadly, we’ll be without the gefilte fish made by my Aunt Charlene. She and my mom made it together and worked with my grandmother when she was alive. That delicious fish was shipped by plane, bus and eventually Fed-Ex to brighten so many Seders.
But despite the fact this holiday revolves around the kitchen and the heavenly odors from all the delicious Passover food, I tried to convince my wife she doesn’t have to cook for an army, but old habits die hard and I walked in earlier this week to bags of vegetables and other goodies along with five pounds of matzo. She’ll use those vegetables to doctor the delicious soup that is coming from our favorite Chinese carry-out place in Fairfield.
At one point about a week ago, I did try to save my wife the hassle of cooking midway through our packing. I arrived home with a Whole Foods flyer and suggested we order one of recipe maven Joan Nathan’s full Passover meals or a side dish like charoset, a delicious blend of apples, nuts, honey, cinnamon and wine that reminds us of brick and mortar used by our ancestors to build the pyramids. But my wife drew the line and said she would make her charoset her way.
In addition to bringing matzo balls, our daughter will provide the hard-boiled eggs for dipping in the salt water, which represents the tears shed by our forefathers during their 400 years of slavery in Egypt.
Thankfully, we didn’t pack our Seder plate yet and we’ll display it proudly on our table. In addition to the charoset, the plate will include maror, bitter herbs to symbolize the bitterness and harshness of slavery; karpas (probably parsley) to represent hope and renewal; zeroah, a lamb or chicken bone, symbolizing the blood of the lamb that the Hebrews smeared on the doorposts of their homes the night the angel of death passed over them and their sons and killed all first-born Egyptians, including Pharaoh’s son; and the beitzah, a roasted egg, which reflects the cycle of life and teaches that even in the most painful times, there is hope for a new beginning.
As I have the last few years, I will add an orange to the Seder plate, honoring women and members of the LGBT community to celebrate our multicultural diversity. The orange also celebrates the fruitfulness that these previously marginalized cultures bring to Jewish life.
We are, of course, thrilled our grandson Lucas will experience his first Passover since coming to us from China and we’re hoping his mom might even coach him in asking or even singing the four questions about why this night is different from every night.
He loves to sing and our older daughter had helped him with the prayers for lighting the Hanukkah candles, so we could be serenaded again.
Of course, I’ll hide the middle matzo, afikomen, at the beginning of our little Seder and Lucas can go on his first journey to find it for a little reward. We can’t wait for that special search.
We’ll use our special, streamlined hagadahs (Seder prayer books) for a modified service and my wife found a wonderful crock pot leg of lamb recipe, which will be easy to cook and forget about until dinner. Of course, we’ll set out that special goblet of wine for the Prophet Elijah and the night will be complete.
Most importantly, I am hopeful we will have closed on our new home in Stratford and can celebrate being there for a proper Seder in 2019. But for tonight, we’ll make our Seder special by just being together.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.