Friday, March 29, 2013

Delicious Blasphemy

Passover Bag of 10 Plagues
Photo credit: girl_named_fred
My Mom is Catholic and my Dad is Jewish, so that makes for a lot of holidays. And a family that thinks ham is the perfect accompaniment to latkes. And Passover seders where the goyim far outnumber the members of the tribe. Some years, we've had over twenty people at my parents' seder and my Dad was the only Jewish person there. The rest are from my mother's side of the family.

This would have been S's first seder with us, and for some reason this stuck in my mind more than Christmas or Easter or St. Patrick's Day. We have family traditions for all of those as well, but I guess because it would've been her first seder ever, I had been looking forward to it. Maybe because we first starting communicating with her around this time last year. 

It didn't really affect my enjoyment of the ritual this year. She'd been acting out so badly towards the end that it was a relief not to have her there. The sameness is a comfort. We had the same confusion over people have the old and new edition of the haggadah that we've had since my parents upgraded. The same confusion as we hit the center of the book and discovered which people had a copy where the center sheet of paper had fallen off the staple. I got the church giggles like I always do. I door open for Elijah and when the little kids asked me what I was doing, I explained that Elijah is like the Great Pumpkin - we hope he's coming.

When my father's friend from temple sang Dayenu, I reminisced over my Great Aunt Jeanne who used to sing that song. 

In fact, that was the only part of the seder she was interested in. When I was little, we'd go to seders at my Great Aunt Gwenne's house and Gwenne and Jeanne would spend the entire time in the kitchen with the housekeeper, occasionally popping their head out to ask when we'd be finished, as if it was a complete surprise to them that we had all this reading aloud to do before we could eat. Then Jeanne would pop out to sing Dayenu and then go back to watching the chicken get drier. 

My Mom, however, has it down pat. At her first seder in the 70s, she made the shiska mistake of putting noodles in the matzo ball soup. My father's relatives ate everything but the noodles and passed their bowls back without saying a word.

But since then, the best seder meal in town. It pains me to say it, but her matzo ball soup is better than mine. If I find out it's because of bouillon cubes, which I refuse to use on principle, I can't be held responsible for my actions.

One more culture clash story. I went to Catholic school. One day, the principal swept through the school giving out detentions to anyone wearing the wrong color socks (white instead of green) or shoes (tan instead of brown) because that was so much more important than the girls smoking pot in the ladies room. Allegedly. And Spring is the perfect time to hassle kids about the same clothes they've been wearing since September.

The detention was for after school that day. I went to the principal's office to explain to Sister Helen that I couldn't stay because I had to go home and set the table for seder. The office was packed with kids and moms waiting to complain. So I just left. Never got in trouble.

Also? Clearly, I need to head over early and set the seder table next year. Because for the past two years my Dad has set two places at the inside of the corner where the two tables come together. Picture the inside of an L, then imagine pulling out the chairs to sit down and those two chairs would occupy the same space. Apparently, Dad expects us to change the laws of physics to perform a Passover miracle. Fortunately, someone usually can't make it at the last minute, so we don't need every seat. 

But after decades of setting a table for 20+ people (when we only had good silver for 12), I can't abide shoddy workmanship like that. Maybe he set one of those places for Elijah? But then what if Elijah actually showed up? What are we going to do then?

How is your Eastover doing? Share your tales of culture clash in the comments.

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