Thursday, March 28, 2013

Nuclear family Passover

We've long held a tradition of nuclear family Thanksgiving, and I cherish it. I always wonder: should I? I have this sensation of looking over my shoulder. Should there be guilt? Are we doing it wrong? We don't invite anyone over. We don't have family dacamping on couches and air mattresses. Is this even American? But I can't help it: I love our five-person Thanksgivings. There's nobody I'd rather spend time with than my family.

That Passover was coming this year was no surprise, as the calendar regularly unfolds at its slow and steady pace, but it left us foundering. For the past several years we've alternated going to my parents' or the lovely husband's, and it would have been his family's turn, but so soon after the loss of his grandmother it felt like too foreign a terrain. We opted to stay home, but found ourselves without a local Passover custom.

We could have made big Seders ourselves. We could have accepted any of several wonderful invitations (and we did go to friends for one night, ultimately, after much back-and-forthing). But in the end we did what we do best: we relied on ourselves, our family of five, and made ourselves one fantastic nuclear family Passover.

If you're not familiar with the Passover seder than this all might look quite strange without context, and in truth, even with context, this isn't the most traditional way of doing things. I got party-store shot glasses to help the kids count the ritual four cups of wine (grape juice). We raised a blue streamer curtain between the kitchen and the dining room and split the Red Sea ever time we walked betwixt and between, and maybe there was a 'round-the-house parade through the sea from slavery into freedom.

Those ten plagues we're supposed to remember: we threw red confetti at each other for blood and jumping frogs climbed all over the dining room table and circular stickers covered us in rainbow boils and oh yes, plastic locusts. Sunglasses for darkness and plastic fans in the print patterns of wild beasts and a story book in lieu of some of the drier text at the end of the night, the kids were yelling best Passover ever! and if it wasn't maybe the paragon of tradition, we fulfilled the spirit of the night, retelling and remembering the story, and my wild, streamer-covered kids, they loved it.

And feeling triumphant at the success of the night, that we made a nuclear family celebration of what's so often done communally feel like the best possible decision, the lovely husband smiled. "You know," he said, "this kind of seder would travel well. You could pack this all up and bring it on the road with us."

So maybe next year we will. Or maybe we won't, knowing how great the holiday can be as just us, in our own exuberant ways. It's good either way, because this year I felt like we chose between no good choices, and next year we'll choose between two good ones.

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