Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Just Like Home, Only Better

I have been feeling good lately because Passover is my favorite holiday, and I was invited to Michelle's house for seder last night. Michelle is a sometime reader of this blog, so if she is visiting, I thank her again enthusiastically for inducing a feeling of well-being with her wonderful food, company, and fellow-feeling about the holiday.
There are all different ways to do Passover, and I can say that I have done many of them. I have been to Orthodox seders as a child that lasted till midnight and were all in Hebrew (dull), Chassidic seders as a young woman where I was sent to the kitchen to peel onions when I wanted to engage in Torah commentary with the men (maddening), seders of all stripes that I myself organized (Jewish Palestinian seders, Jewish black seders, seders where I was the only Jewish person, seders with lots of kids (fun)). For a few years I did a seder almost every day, between home and all the political groups I belonged to.
But in the past years, since Jeremy has grown up and refused to take part, and Richard has balked, sedered out from a lifetime of these long evenings outside of his own tradition, I've been at loose seder ends. So every year, like Elijah, I scout around for an open door, a place left empty for me to occupy, potluck dish in hand.
That is why I am so happy about going to Michelle's house. Michelle leads the Torah group at the synagogue that I am part of, and I thank her for that all year long by going to the meetings and trying to take part as whole-heartedly as I can, no matter what else is happening in my life.
I have known Michelle and her family for a long time. Her sons are a bit older than mine, and when I was a graduate student at UCI for many years we saw them around the neighborhood. But this is the first time I have been to her house.
Last year I was invited to an extremely wealthy person's house for seder, and I felt uncomfortable. Though she was a professor at the University, she really didn't care about the seder and that was plain by the way the family merely tolerated the ancient words and rituals. They were not interested in discussing them, in singing the songs, in luxuriating in the ancient questions.
But last night, in a group composed of Michelle and her husband, their good friends, Indian professors who live down the street and are very close friends of the family, and an elderly father of another neighbor without a seder to attend, I truly felt as if I were home, with a group that appreciated the holiday and the ritual in the same sort of curious, interested way I do, who truly loved all of it, the food, the waiting for the food, the songs.
And it didn't hurt that the food was first rate--a vegetable soup with matzo balls that was the equal of any soup I've ever eaten, a rack of lamb (such a profusion of lamb I've never seen!)--perfectly cooked, roasted fingerling potatoes so hot they scorched the roof of my mouth (and I've finally seen how purple a purple potato can be!), roasted brussel sprouts with pine nuts, and my melange of roasted vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, red onions, butternut squash, asparagus, garlic, and multicolored peppers), which were unfortunately unevenly roasted. Then we had macaroons and macerated strawberries with whipped cream available if we wanted it and tea. Wonderful!
The house was full of animals, a lovely dog who visited me repeatedly during the meal, a curious abyssinian cat who knocked everything down off the mantel, including my purse, and another, shyer cat, who never came to investigate the new visitor.
I thank Michelle for her invitation this year and her standing invitation to come whenever I want for seder.


Lou said...

From the food to the furry and human company, a perfect evening, indeed.

liz said...

Dear Robbi,
I am not Jewish (well, maybe 25%... could that be the "I will not pay retail part"? :} but I resonate with the camaraderie that you carefully explained has little to do with sumptious surroundings. I am so very glad that your seder was as it should be and enjoyed your descriptions of seders past.

Robbi said...

It was perfect! I love a seder spent in good company.