by Rebecca Boroson
“THIS IS A NIGHT for Elijah,” says 7-year-old Bram. The wind is battering the trees and sending the clouds running for cover.
And it does, indeed, seem like a night for the biblical prophet, for whom Bram will open the door during the seder — and who may invisibly, if he deigns, take the chair we’ve provided for him and drink from his own cup.
But it turns out to be more like a night for the Keystone Kops.
First up is my ancient uncle, a recent widower who does not know how to cook for himself (he called me to ask how to make Jello). He comes an hour early, and is ragingly hungry. I stop in the middle of my seder preparations to feed him, and he makes a mess of my table, painstakingly set with damask and china and polished silver.
I sigh, reset the table, and go back to my cooking.
This is the only seder some of my guests will get a chance to attend, so I have made an ambitious menu — maybe a little too ambitious: There will be twenty-three of us — and about that many (or so it seems) special diets.
I love Passover and I like to do it right. I’ve written my own, shortened Haggadahs (for my guests’ short attention spans), with explanations and room for discussion, and the kids have made construction paper covers for them; I’ve embroidered napkins and pillow covers (for reclining) and a towel for the ritual handwashing, for which I’ve prepared a silver cup and bowl. I’ve also provided a porcelain egg for salt water for the eggs and bitter herbs, and I even grated the horseradish. I am really trying to give everyone the Passover he/she longs for. Me too.
NEXT UP are R. and I. (no names, please) and their brood. They’re what’s called a blended family — each lost a spouse and was left with a passel of kids. They married primarily to get a partner in the hard work of child-rearing, too soon to know each other well, and they clearly regret it.
R. is not a beauty, but she has good legs — great legs, in fact — and she likes to show them off. Wearing strappy stiletto heels, she marches through the door as if they are really stilettos and she is stabbing I. in the heart with them — or maybe the eyes, or maybe all of the above. God knows what happened between them in the car. She stomps her way to the head of the table — where I was planning to sit, because it’s nearest the kitchen — and I. takes the chair at the foot, opposite her, my husband’s intended place. They glare at each other, then R. bends down, unbuckles the strap of her high-heeled shoe, takes it off, and sails it at him across the long table. It misses, barely.
I. clutches his wine glass — one of the few remaining of my mother’s Czechoslovakian crystal — so tightly that it shatters, slicing his hand. He mops up the blood with my lovingly embroidered napkin.
My uncle, who dearly loved his late wife, is appalled to see a married couple behave toward each other this way — but thankfully, he does not say so.
The seder goes downhill from there, and when we finally close with “Next year in Jerusalem,” I think, at any rate, not here — anywhere but here.
P.S. Elijah did not show. At least, I did not see him.
Rebecca Boroson is editor emerita of The Jewish Standard, a newspaper based in Teaneck, New Jersey. She last appeared here with “The Child Bride.”