A family’s special time for embracing future and honoring past

The kit­chen already is an un­declared dis­aster area. On one counter, bowls with in­gredi­ents ran­ging from lumpy to vel­vety stand like sentries. On an­oth­er, two chop­ping boards bear wit­ness to the re­cent mas­sacre of onions and car­rots.

Pots sim­mer on the stove in their own crazy syn­co­pa­tion.

But where, oh where, is the re­cipe for matza apple pud­ding with rais­ins that my sons-in-law, the gar­gan­tu­an eat­ers, have re­ques­ted from last year’s feast? It had been clipped from a news­pa­per, stuffed some­where for safe­keep­ing. But its cur­rent loc­a­tion is, of course, un­known.

Yes, it’s Pas­sov­er sea­son, the hol­i­day that marks the Jew­ish people’s free­dom from slavery in Egypt. And while I won’t be host­ing the Pas­sov­er Seder on March 25, I will be do­ing my share of roast­ing, bak­ing and fret­ting over lost re­cipes.

I’ve in­sisted upon help­ing our daugh­ter, Nancy, who will be do­ing the fam­ily hon­ors this year. Even though I pre­tend to mind the work and the mess in­volved in pre­par­ing for this Jew­ish hol­i­day, I love it. 

Every Pas­sov­er sea­son brings a col­li­sion with the pas­sage of time. And I’m won­der­ing how pre­par­ing for this lovely ritu­al of spring passed in a blink from my ma­ter­nal grand­moth­er, to my moth­er, to me, and now to Nancy. 

“The sea­sons they go ’round and ’round,” as that old song about the gen­er­a­tion­al dance of life re­minds us. And in this case, those sea­sons re­mind me of oth­er times, oth­er Seders.

And sud­denly, it’s 2013. And gathered at Nancy’s table this year will be our nuc­le­ar fam­ily, and the won­der­ful ad­di­tions to it: those hungry sons-in-laws, some mem­bers of their fam­il­ies as the circle grows, the young urb­an child one of our daugh­ters is ment­or­ing, an old fam­ily friend who will be cel­eb­rat­ing this hol­i­day of free­dom in a spe­cial way be­cause once, she barely es­caped ex­term­in­a­tion in a hor­ror called the Holo­caust.

This same group, with a few ad­di­tions and sub­trac­tions, has   shared our pro­found grat­it­ude at Thanks­giv­ing, too, and count­less oth­er mile­stones: birth­days, an­niversar­ies, and yes, the grief and loss that in­ev­it­ably dot the hu­man cal­en­dar. 

I know there will be mass con­fu­sion in Nancy’s kit­chen. There will be noisy chil­dren anxious for the Pas­sov­er ser­vice to be over and the meal to be­gin. And there will be too much food and vows that next year we’ll be more prudent.

I’ve come to real­ize that hol­i­days mat­ter not just be­cause of their in­her­ent mean­ing, but be­cause they are mini-reck­on­ings. 

We know that noth­ing will ever be quite the same as it will be at this year’s cel­eb­ra­tion, this mark­er on the re­lent­less march of time.  

Those miss­ing from the table are more present than ever in their ab­sence. They are some­how with us as we sip the sweet wine and pass the chick­en soup with matza balls, made from my late moth­er’s scat­ter­shot re­cipe.

“I don’t meas­ure,” she told us time and time again when we begged for this treas­ured re­cipe. And we all agree that des­pite our best ef­forts at im­it­a­tion, Mom’s soup was al­ways bet­ter.

The pas­sages we mark at this table are just that – pas­sages. No stop­ping them, nor would we want to.

My hus­band and I now sit at the head of the Pas­sov­er table as — how can it be? — the eld­ers. 

Our young­est grand­child, blue-eyed Carly, no longer begs to sit on my lap. She’s linked with the older cous­ins now, thrilled to be one of that noisy army. I miss her nestled next to me, yet de­light in see­ing her dash off, flushed and joy­ful. Yes, a pas­sage.

There is com­fort in know­ing that all across the world, oth­er Jew­ish fam­il­ies also are cel­eb­rat­ing Pas­sov­er. That no mat­ter what a mess the world may be in at this mo­ment, we have this shared and glor­i­ous his­tory.

So yes, I’m a bit weary from the cook­ing. I’ll be glad when I can re­store or­der to the coun­ters and pantry closet and yes, a de­term­ined post-Seder diet will start in a few days.

But what a glor­i­ous time of year, this Pas­sov­er sea­son, when  the past lives in the present, and em­braces the fu­ture. 

No won­der I al­ways get teary, and reach for my hus­band’s hand, when we end our Pas­sov­er Seder with the toast “L’Chaim — To Life!”

And that says it all. ••

Sally Fried­man is a long­time freel­ance writer with a spe­cial in­terest in fam­ily life. Her work has ap­peared in The New York Times, Ladies Home Journ­al, Fam­ily Circle, the Huff­ing­ton Post, and fre­quently in the Chick­en Soup for the Soul series.

You can reach at pinegander@aol.com.

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