|Batman & Joker at the Seder table, 2012|
Passover began on Friday at sunset, so our house was awash in matzo. Making Ethan his lunch, I asked if he would like some, or if he thought he’d be sick of it by the time these next 8 days were over, but he responded with an enthusiastic “Yes!” (Or as enthusiastic as a kid who is down for the count with a sore throat and bad cold can sound.)
And so I head to the kitchen to fix Ethan some (whole wheat) matzo the way he likes it… the way I liked it as a kid, schooled by my father because it was the way HE liked it: slathered with a thin, even sheen of butter and then salted.
He LOVED to eat matzo like that, and for years I did too. There is an art to it, making sure the butter is soft enough to spread, and spreading with a light enough touch so as not to pulverize the matzo as you spread. Then shaking on just enough salt. A delicate operation all around.
So standing in my kitchen, making my son his matzo I have invoked my father, tickled that such an un-religious man is so heavily associated with this very observant foodstuff.
He was a dedicated atheist/agnostic. He disliked organized religion. But we always did Passover and Hanukkah. I think because these were holidays in the home, about food and family. And food and family were really important to him.
So every Passover of my childhood, we would head off to my Aunt & Uncle's (my mother's brother's family) where my wonderful cousins would be waiting for me. We would go through the haggadah - a liberal, modern one, light on the "chosen people" & Hebrew and heavy on the social justice and unity of all peoples stuff - as quickly as possible. Then linger over the wonderful meal, finish up fast and roll home very late, very happy.
My husband's family is much more traditional and religious than mine, and in the years when my father was still alive and it was the year for us to Passover with Dan's side, my father would gamely sit through the long Seder, eat his matzo without butter, it being a Kosher meat meal.
As the years went on, his post-dinner sofa nap became longer and longer, eventually involving a pre-dinner one as well, encompassing most of the Seder itself. But still, it was good to have him with us.
He and my Mother-in-law passed in the same year, so my mother is the sole representative of their generation at Passover now. This year she appeared markedly more fragile than last, fading rapidly.
I feel her slipping away before my eyes, a pleasant smile always on her face, but less and less going on behind it with each passing day. Caring for my father grounded her, kept her present, focused. She is starting to forget people. I do not know if she will still be with us next Passover.
This year my father is now two years gone; this our third Passover without him. But buttering and salting a square of matzo for my son, I feel him standing by my side, peering over my shoulder, reaching out for its crisp, crumbly goodness; reassuring me I've salted it perfectly, just right.