Kinda been stuck wanting to write but not landing on a subject that could arouse the commitment.
But thanks to my crazy cousin who is now Israeli and who just now posted a very sweet reminiscence of his Passovers, I decided that, yes, my childhood Passovers too, are worth the reminiscences and I’d really like to share so here goes:
First, Pesach had it’s own smell.
Maybe it was the resurrected-like-Brigadoon dishes, maybe the new clothes from that frum place on Main Street with that creepy dressing room, maybe the beautiful blooming magnolia tree next door that belonged to the beautiful blooming girl next door; a tree whose leaves could be written on with toothpicks if u had a very short message.
Two whole weeks off from school and no more heavy jackets. The schlepping and schlepping from the basement. The shopping and shopping at Waldbaums. Shul, shul and more shul.
The way the table was set for Seder with those tiny silver spoons, bosom-round wine glasses and creative place cards —and the way we always went to Uncle Max and Aunt Jenny’s for the first one and we had the second one.
Aunt Jenny and Uncle Max. They filled up my childhood like giants in a puppet show. Forceful, funny and frankly frightening. They were rich, they were intellectuals, they were friendly with famous Rabbis. They were my parents-away-from-parents, and they had an outsized influence on my development.
Their seders were endless. The divrei torah—commentaries direct from Israeli boy-yeshivas brought home in reams by their son, the doctor. Their hilarious daughter-the-violinist whose faces made me giggle during –shh! shh!—Kiddish.
Uncle Max sang the German versions of EVERY song of the Haggadah. “Un bau un bau un Bau un BAU un B-A-U (!!!) dein Temple Shiloh.”
And sang in a voice of such tremendous teutonic timbre I swear Got in Himmel Himself could hear it.
Then, inexplicably, at the end of the seder—and I know it wasn’t the wine because Uncle Max NEVER lost control and anyway he only drank that icky sweet wine like we all did til I got married and brought a couple of bottles of cabernet to the seder for which I got verbally walloped for being a yuppie—Uncle Max would hang a spoon on his nose, and, magically—IT WOULD STAY THERE.
Every year. Chad Gadya and that spoon on Uncle Max’s nose.
Then the goodbyes and the this was the best seder ever—it was, every year—and then the walk home at 4 in the morning and once we even got a police escort (there really wasn’t much going on in Hillcrest those days…)
Second day came with Fox’s Ubet and Manischewitz chocochip cookies and matzoh and cherry jelly for breakfast and salmon croquettes when Bubby and Pop Pop Katz came (I miss them every day) and the most important taste of all: Daddy’s Charoset.
Daddy didn’t cook, or do much domestic stuff (he was European, after all) but for some reason, he took this on and no one, no one, no one else can make Charoset.
The apples, chopped not too fine. The mix of nuts, freshly shelled and chopped. The sweet Tokay wine that not one wine store in Englewood or indeed the world seems to have. The way he sat at the kitchen table, relaxed and working at the same time.
That was really the essence of Daddy.
You know, I feel better now. Just thinking about it and bringing it all back.
We’re gonna make our own second seder, Sruli and me, and I think this one is gonna be the best one ever so far.
The baby twins, 2, are primed to sing the Ma Nishtana—tho they might launch into If You’re Happy and You Know It, instead.
We have some old and new friends coming.
We are going to go through the Haggadah musically and Sruli is going to wax rabbinic in that sexy-smart way of his.
I’m not going to clean enough to make me crazy, and anyway, we still have that hole in the kitchen ceiling, so really how fancy can our house be?
And this year will be the last one that my stepdaughter is not a bat-chorin—next year in New Jersey…
And my beloved, and beautiful poopoopoo big boys will be there—Zachary fresh from his killer performance at The Bitter End and Aaron fresh from his starring role in Oklahoma. We’ve rehearsed a spiritual in four-part-harmony, a new old song for our family band.
And I will be making the Charoset. From apples and nuts and wine and memory.