I’m hosting my first Seder tonight.
I can’t help thinking about Passover 2012. I left Ben before the first night of Passover, and I did not celebrate with a Seder last year. I was simply too exhausted to tell the story of the Exodus when I had just experienced my own.
Most Jews have fond memories of Passover and family, reaching back into their childhoods. The first Seder I experienced was at Temple Beth Israel in Fresno, California. The temple at which I eventually converted to Judaism. My friend Ivana came with me, so as not to make me go alone. We were in our early twenties.
The following year, I again attended Temple Beth Israel’s Seder and I took a book that my grandmother’s Aunt Clara had written about our family history. It had pictures of the Jewish side of my family. I wanted, and still want, a Jewish family of my own. I took pictures of Anna, Solomon, Clara, Lena, Tess, Rebecca, Elsie, Simon, and my great-great-great grandfather Isaac Alexandrovitch, who looks strikingly like my Uncle Ronnie. The genes are strong in this family. I wanted so much to not feel alone on Passover.
In following years, I was invited to homes of friends or went to Jewish young adult Seders with others who had no family nearby to celebrate with. The difference was that I had no family to celebrate with. When I got married, I finally had a family to celebrate with. Except this family didn’t serve horseradish and said I was doing it wrong to make a Hillel sandwich. There was no gefilte fish; instead, my mother-in-law served chraime, a Moroccan fish soup. They were patient with me when I read the Hebrew portion and I kind of felt like I belonged, outside of the desire for horseradish.
Now, I’m on my own again. But, I absolutely could not bear to sit at someone else’s Seder table. Not this year. If my personal exodus has come full circle, then I must tell my own story along with the story of all Jews.
My mother said she couldn’t believe it’d only been a year, that it felt like so much longer that I’d left Ben.
I have felt every minute of the past year. I worked on getting over the marriage, the divorce, the great mistake.
Most days I’m good, best I’ve ever felt in my life. But, sometimes my sadness creeps up. I could feel it creeping today, but I was determined to feel joy for our freedom from slavery.
And I made chraime instead of gefilte fish. I can’t imagine what my mother-in-law would think, but despite everything that has happened, I hope there would be a part of her that was happy. It is so superior to gefilte fish; I never considered doing anything differently. It’s my Seder and I’ll do what I want to.
Next year, in Jerusalem.