I am not a very good cook. I do not always keep what some people may call: “a clean house.” There are a lot of crumbs and pennies inside my couch cushions. I know that they are there. I sit amongst them every day, yet I do not have the energy to clean them up. I don’t like doing or using real dishes. I love paper goods. I have never, ever used the china that I got for my wedding 15 years ago. So, naturally, I am the perfect person to throw all of the holidays for our friends and family.
I have hosted them all: from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve to Fourth of July. There is not a holiday I have not had at my house. With one notable exception: the Jewish holiday of Passover. That one just seemed way too much for me. There are props and symbolic food items that are not easily found at grocery stores. There is a production that accompanies the dinner which involves singing, the flinging of liquids, and historical re-enactments.
The table has to include more items that one can remember. If one of these symbolic things are not properly placed on the table, it can ruin the whole holiday. There are rules about the types of food one can serve. There are commandments as to what can and cannot go into all of the required symbolic dishes one must serve.
So, I have always opted out of hosting that one. Until last week, when I found myself hosting a small group of 35 people for Passover.
Listen, you Easter people: you have it made. I’m still not totally sure what the Peeps and the Easter bunny have to do with your holiday, but it all seems a lot more fun that what we Jews have to do. I’m assuming that you don’t have to re-enact Jesus’ death and his resurrection. You probably don’t have to throw ketchup on Uncle Kenny to symbolize Jesus’ blood, or to eat a completely made-up seafood item like gefilte fish. The only thing our kids get to hunt for on our holiday is a piece of matzah inside a pillowcase and only one kid gets to win. So, just enjoy those easter egg hunts. Please take a moment to pause and think of us eating parsley dipped in salt water while you are eating your honey-baked ham.
The strangest symbol we have to have at the seder is an empty chair. We must set a place for an invisible guy named Elijah. No one really cares about Elijah once we say his name a few times during the service. People step on his chair or knock it over in an attempt to grab a yummy macaroon when the service is over. Elijah is there, but not really.
And such is the life of a parent of a teenager. We are in the house with our children, but not really. They know we are there, but most of the time, they really don’t care. They are busy watching t.v., playing on their phones, or skyping/texting/Instagram-ing with their friends. We drive them where they need to go, provide food and shelter, but most of the time, they only remember us because we are in the way. We used to be the center of their universe, but slowly, we are becoming like Elijah: invisible. It is normal, it is part of growing up and becoming independent. It is a ritual as old as time.
And so, like our ancestors before us, we are forced to wander in the desert, figuring out what to do next. Wondering where to go and how to start over now that we have been set free.
Melodramatic? Sure. But, remember, I am a Jew. It’s part of my heritage. We have a several holidays where we make everyone feel guilty for what those before us have suffered on our behalf. So bear with me. Because it will happen to you one day too.
You see, no matter your religion, watching your shy, cuddly little babies become strong, independent teenagers is every parents’ Passover.
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