Thoughts for This Year’s Passover Table

Last April, I walked around the perimeter of the house, cleaning up for Passover — picking up shoes, socks, backpacks, pajama pants, and moving them to their rooms of origin.

I used both my six-foot Costco tables to prepare for Passover and my 16-year-old daughter helped set them up. When my husband came home, he reminisced about the holidays and shared a little-known fact with out daughter: he helped his mother, her grandma, pick out her china dinnerwear pattern.

“I still remember the name, “he said. “Coral Tree. Or something like that. “

I rolled my eyes but it inspired me to set the table with my own bright blue china pattern. I told my daughter my mom said the blue square pattern reminded her of a bandanna and she didn’t like it and my mother-in-law had suggested something in a coral color.

“Oh my god, Mom,” she said. “You picked a china pattern that the moms didn’t even like. I would never do that.”

I thought that was funny because my daughter didn’t always regard what her mom liked, particularly my thoughts on studying for AP Physics versus binge-watching Gossip Girl or American Horror Story.

But I liked how the triple tables looked all glisteny with the white and blue dishes and the clear Costco cutlery. It looked festive, felt like Passover, and I’d even made matzo ball soup myself — from a mix, of course.

When my husband came home and found me standing in front of a cauldron of boiling water, wearing my favorite apron that read, Who are these kids and why are they calling me mom? and carefully spooning matzo balls onto a white ceramic tray — they fall apart so easily — he took out his iPhone and snapped my picture.

“Wow,” he said. “I love coming home and finding you in an apron.”

Okay, I’m no Caroline Ingalls. I’ve never darned a sock and I don’t cook particularly joyfully. But I wipe up crumbs as they make a trailing pattern against my wood floor and I pour hot water to make tea for my daughter — Throat Coat when she has rehearsal.

That next morning, I marinated the brisket before I dropped off my daughter at school late because she had another sinus infection. On the way home, I saw a mom and daughter cross the street. The little girl was around four years old, she still had baby curls and a soft face and she was smiling, her little hand wrapped in her moms. I felt happy to remember those little hands wrapped in mine and to know that my three were older now and things were good. I had more balance in my life between children and work and I was grateful.

There were Passovers in my past when I felt like one of the slaves — imprisoned in my own life of parenting and dealing with special needs and IEP’s and meetings and conferences and, oh, the phone calls. But last year, I no longer felt like a slave. I felt like one of those wandering Jews, hoping I’d left the worst of times behind but not sure what lay ahead.

This year, I am going to my sister-in-law’s house. And this year, like every year, we will re-tell the Passover story about how we were slaves and how we became free. The story is never exactly the same, but it always ends well: we survive. But, this year, the faces of people who may not survive weigh heavily on my heart: photographs of rubble and bloody children in T-shirts, and war and loss and displacement, and families, like ours, who have as much a right to sit together in safety, sharing a meal and celebrating a holiday as we do. It is unfathomable to me how much the world has changed in one year.

This morning, I went to the market and it was full of people. I waited at the meat department to buy my brisket and then found the aisle with the matzoh and the grape juice and chocolate chips for the kosher dessert my youngest is going to bake. I got out my china and washed the organic strawberries and set the timer to remember when to get the brisket in the oven. (It’s better when you make it the night before.) It’s hard to reconcile the ease with which I go about my holiday preparations with the senseless destruction going on across the globe. Passover acts as an anchor to miracles and freedom and salvation. I’m not particularly religious, but this year, I long for a miracle of freedom and salvation for so many human beings around the world.

Tomorrow will come and I will put on my apron to make my husband smile. We will sit in a comfortable house with lovely friends, Jews and non-Jews alike, and laugh and drink wine and, no doubt, our thoughts will turn to those who are suffering and sick and still not free. Many will talk about their endeavors and writings and advocacy toward this goal. And I will feel grateful and happy and sad and frustrated and angry and anguished and lucky all at the same time.

It is customary to end the Sedar meal by saying, “Next year in Jerusalem!” Some say it is an expression of the Jewish hope for the coming of the Messiah. I like the idea that “Jerusalem” represents a world in which justice and peace reign. Next year, may there be justice and peace! Or how about this year? For so many, time is of the essence.




Founder: Heart.Soul.Pen.® for women writers & the Women’s Writing Den. Essays: @NYTimes @WashPo @LATimes @BuzzFeed. Author: “Restless in L.A.”

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Robin Finn

Robin Finn

Founder: Heart.Soul.Pen.® for women writers & the Women’s Writing Den. Essays: @NYTimes @WashPo @LATimes @BuzzFeed. Author: “Restless in L.A.”

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