This week has been one of beginning posts and not finishing them due to the balancing of self, community and “responsibilities”. I have a list of all the “to dos” I could be attempting this morning; however, blogging floated to the most important section of the list. In reality, having the opportunity to share, self express, and reflect on the goings-on this week is not just important but essential for me; to replenish my koach (soul/energy) and to fill my heart.
This past Monday, my bf and I welcomed in Passover with a Seder. It was a small gathering (8 of us total) and the first we’ve hosted together. It was my first experience hosting a Seder and our first time hosting a dinner together.
It also came with lessons. My first lesson of the week came on Monday morning as I felt the anxiety of putting together a dinner for eight that was Kosher for Passover (as best as we could do it with our kitchen) and fit the needs of omnivore, vegetarian and vegan guests. We also realized Monday morning that we did not have a table to seat 8 nor enough dishes. Additionally, because it’s necessary to clean the chametz out of your home (again, we modified as best as we could), it was important for my bf to deep clean as much as possible. With his working overtime and our teaching, we’d not made space to do this cleaning for the days before that it requires. So it came down to Monday also.
Thankfully, I had therapy on Monday. And my therapist agreed to a phone session so I didn’t have to travel the 30 minutes to and from Cambridge. We talked about my anxiety regarding the day and she, having been a guest at many a Seder, gently asked me what, for me, the festival was about at its roots. “Celebration,” I responded, “and community. And thanking G-d.”
And then we talked about how I didn’t have to be perfect. That the dinner I was cooking didn’t have to turn out well. If the Seder, for me, was about being in community to celebrate and be thankful to G-d, then the food was simply an addition to that- not the backbone of the affair (despite a Seder being a dinner…). She coached me to write a sign “Bad food? Fun Seder!” and hang it on the wall of my kitchen where I was prepping and cooking most of the day. I added, “L’chaim!”- a phrase (“To life!”) that I have been holding close to my heart and using to guide my days in celebrating moments and thanking G-d for them.
And, amazingly, the sign worked. Every time I looked at it I smiled and remembered what hosting a Seder meant to me. It gave me the ability to have my bf spend his day taking on the big task of cleaning his room and the living room (the location of the Seder) and me spend my day cooking/baking and running around to get a table and dishes. And, at the end of the day I was able to truly appreciate his hard work in making our celebration a reality. Able to appreciate the dust he swept and lifted (twice over), furniture he moved, and pictures he hung. And so came my second lesson: In not judging myself nor expecting perfection out of myself, I was able to not judge either of us for our last minute rushing around. Instead, I smiled. Instead of weighing our contributions against each other’s work, I appreciated both of our efforts. And, when I was still cooking as guests arrived, I asked two of my friends to help me chop and mix and finish the rest of the meals. And it was perfect.
That night we moved our way through the Seder as we knew how- clumsily but with smiles, shared readings from the Haggadah (with Elie Wiesel’s commentary), questions and answers, and wonderful conversation. Before the dinner began our friends colored Passover placemats and got to know each other. We, sadly, didn’t get to play Passover Bingo because instead we had an extended, thought-provoking discussion on gender, sexuality, politics and religion through dinner. And, at the end of the night (10:45pm), only three of us were left to hunt for the Afikomen, but we laughed and raced to find it. Erin won a “bag of plagues” for finding it first, Austin a wind-up Matzoh ball for being right behind her, and I a huge smile for watching them delightedly hunt it out. And there was my third lesson: Grand plans (food, games, timing) may change and, yes, the Seder will still be perfect.
At the end of the night we happily and, admittedly, exhaustedly tidied up. And three loads of dishes later (done on Tuesday) I could only look back on our first dinner with pure, heart-felt joy. It truly was the epitome of celebration, community and thanking G-d.
Oh, and the menu?
- Chicken matzoh ball soup
- Vegan Matzoh ball soup
- Vegan quinoa/kale patties
- Steamed green beans
- Roasted potatoes
- Vegan cauliflower/leek kugel
- Green salad
- Angel food cake (which turned out more like angel food macaroon)
- Fresh fruit
- Matzoh brittle (dark chocolate with almonds AND milk chocolate sans nuts)
- Vegan matzoh toffee with almonds
[And while I didn’t originally think of it here, I was just reminded of a fourth lesson: Sometimes, potlucks are a good idea 😉 ]