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Just Because

Chaya Liba Aarons

I survived the Seder only with the help of my father’s winks along the way, but they were long-distance winks

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

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H ow do you like your Seder?

I like mine the way it used to be: an intimate family affair, with only my parents and five siblings around the table. Today, our Seder is very different. My grandparents moved near their children after decades of living out of town, and they now host a huge Seder every single year to make up for all those “lost” years. Their eight children in town, all with families of their own, make sure to be there.

That makes for three long tables of fathers, mothers, kids of all ages, and a bunch of babies. There’s lots of noise, laughter, wine spilling, potato squashing, and much more fun. Of course, the Seder takes twice as long as it would for one family alone, but even the adults don’t complain (the kids sure don’t, as they always win the class contest of Who Had The Latest Seder). The entire family talks about this highlight of the year all year long, and the phone is constantly busy the month before Pesach as the mothers discuss who’s bringing what and who’s helping Bubby when.

Well, after Purim, I have a deep pit in my stomach. A week before Pesach, I’m counting down the days until the day after the Seder.

I know — it’s strange I don’t appreciate getting together and spending time with my lovely extended family, and especially the four cousins exactly my age. I’m not a party pooper or anything, but I just do not enjoy the Seder.

Last year, all girls the same age sat in a row — Esther, Rina, Sari, Rachel, and I. I was too embarrassed to admit that I preferred to sit near my parents. But that’s the truth: I love the family feel, the comfort you feel with your parents and siblings. Sounds pretty babyish, right? So, of course, I appeared as happy as anyone else with the seating arrangement.

Esther and Rina, who are in the same class in school and also have that same popular streak, kept themselves busy with a running flow of jokes and conversation between them. Sari either joined them, or whispered with Rachel. That left me in the corner. I couldn’t really shout loud enough for Esther and Rina to hear, so I was totally out of their group, which meant out of things entirely.

 

And somehow, I didn’t feel comfortable striking up a conversation with Rachel, especially when she was already busy talking to Sari.

I survived the Seder only with the help of my father’s winks along the way, but they were long-distance winks. I felt anxious and out of sync throughout the six-hour affair. I longed to get back home, to my own bed, and for our Yom Tov seudah at home the next morning.

I will never forget the awkward incident in the middle of the meal last year. That really took the cake. My Bubby is the best hostess, and her number-one talent is that she knows how to get everyone to help. So for every course, a different age group was serving. During the last course, Bubby threw out breezily, “Okay, girls, you’re doing dessert. You divide the work among yourselves. There are three desserts in six containers. Make sure to prepare some kid portions and some for adults, you’ll work it out.”

Even before getting up, my four cousins were busy joking and fighting over who would do what. And I just sat there, suddenly mute. I couldn’t get a word out, and really strangely, I couldn’t even get up. My cousins jumped up from their chairs and got to work in the kitchen, while I stayed glued to my chair, silent and embarrassed. I felt like double-duty glue just clamped up my mouth and stuck me to my chair. I couldn’t ignore the strange looks I got, and I hated each one. My cousins peered at me as they came in to serve the pears in wine, baked apples, and vanilla ice cream, but I didn’t meet their eyes. I also declined dessert; no way could I get a thing past that rock in my throat. (Excerpted from Mishpacha’s Teen Pages, Issue 37)

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