Monday, April 14, 2014

After Seder

The night before this picture was taken, when our haverim (sometimes spelled chaverim) guests have left, I change into pajama pants and my softest, comfiest shirt.

We prepare for Seder (a Passover celebration) all week before participating in the ritual and dinner on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, and that Saturday is a flurry of work and adrenaline-pumping anticipation from about 6:30 in the morning: waking up, showering, setting out our nice clothes, picking up the rental chairs, dishes, stemware, and flatware; running the vacuum everywhere (Howie sheds heavily in the spring), mopping, wiping dirty little fingermarks off all the appliances, picking up flowers at the florist (and arranging them), cooking lamb and lasagna casserole, getting ice and whatever else we forgot at the store, moving furniture out of the front rooms ... crazy! Then the guests arrive around six, and everyone is eager to break into the wine and hear about all the "family news." Wine bottles are opened, the guests forget that we rent stemware and drag out the old mismatched wine glasses from the top dusty shelf, the kids descend on the noshes like locusts, and suddenly the kitchen is trashed in every empty space and counters are full of potluck offerings.

By 10:30, most everyone has left. Bernie was exhausted (he does all the heavy lifting) and I encouraged him to hit the sack. Looking around the kitchen at the mess and chaos, I remembered Cheryl Haimann's poem, "Keeping House," poured myself a big glass of wine over ice, and began doing dishes.

Wash five dishes, have a sip of wine. Remember how many Seders we've celebrated with these table friends: twenty-four. Dry some dishes, wash some more. Another sip, another memory, of how much the children have grown. Gather up the tablecloths (including the one the kids have spilled grape juice all over) and put them in the washer on Pre-Wash. Another sip, and now the pitcher and bowl used for the ritual hand-washing that begins Seder.

But don't put it away. Put it back on the table, beside the candles and the centerpiece, and the matzot, still wrapped in their white muslin cloth, Elijah's cup, and Bernie's yarmulka. Now to finish the dishes -- not so many after all, look around the counters and remember the fine friends who were there a bare hour or so ago, closer than family.

Peek out into the darkened front room and see the symbols of Seder there, listening again to the guests singing "Shalom, Haverim" in a perfect round to finish Seder, beautiful and haunting in our echoey room. (Nice recording; we sing it at a slightly faster tempo.)

In the morning, when I wake, I go out to the room again, and there are the symbols of a beautiful Seder, and I look forward to next year once again.

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