passover

to come home to by Laura Kochman

Yesterday's post was hard to write and harder to click publish on, but I'm glad that I did. I'm still trying to listen better to what I need, to consider that what I need is worth needing. In the swarm of those emotions, I signed up for a writing workshop this weekend, on embodied ritual in (Jewish) writing. Great timing, right?

My favorite holiday is happening right now, and I spent much of my weekend at family meals. Passover has always been my favorite because it is the most ritualistic, the most structured, the most focused on conversation, the most gefiltefish. I have a strained relationship with Judaism, but not with Passover. I love the symbolism and the groupthink of the haggadah, the way we can never follow instructions properly. One year we wore masks to represent the plagues, one year finger puppets. Ten years ago I skipped Passover to visit a college, and it turned out to be my last chance to see my Bubbe. In grad school, I longed for Passover and attended seder at the only synagogue in Tuscaloosa, where I read a paragraph in Hebrew and the rabbi made fun of my stilted pronunciation. Years ago, I kicked my legs under my aunt's dining room table and watched Bubbe shovel in magenta horseradish and grin at us kids, red teeth and slim fingers.

My family actually isn't that big on ritual, so maybe that's why I love it—what is content without form? A thing to come home to. Every year I wonder / how we'll last / this the last. This year we put an orange on the seder plate, so this will be the year we put an orange on the seder plate. Am I trying to hold onto something that I never had? Will it stay? The seder is the strange embodiment of a spirituality that I don't keep, a form without content, but repetition breeds meaning, and maybe in this way I'll find it.

this dynamic rivalry between house and universe by Laura Kochman

I'm still working on reading that book. It's been so long since I started reading it that I had to reread what I had already read, but I'm determined this time. After today, it's spring break at the University of Alabama, and I'm flying home tomorrow for Passover, so there will be plenty of time to read on the plane. Planes scare the shit out of me (much like most things that present opportunity for horrific death), but reading is one way that I can calm down a little. The drone of the plane helps me concentrate on the words on the page, instead of on my terror, and I really don't like small-talk conversations with strangers, so I have to keep my eyes on the page to avoid making accidental eye contact. Reading back through this paragraph, I sound incredibly neurotic, but I think that might be an accurate portrayal. I haven't been home for Passover since I was a junior in high school. When I was in college, I never went home on breaks, and my senior year of high school, I was on a college visit and I missed the seder. I knew I was going to miss it, and my Bubbe was in the late stages of pancreatic cancer, so I spent the night at her house before leaving town, and I missed the seder and then she died. Passover has always been my favorite holiday, but all the other holidays I've been home for haven't been the same, our giant family dwindling and shifting over the years, and when we get together around the dining room table now there are empty seats. My aunts always tell the same stories, repeat the same infuriating narratives about things I never actually did when I was a kid, but I let them tell the stories because it's a tiny piece of continuity. Remember the time with the bad cake. Remember the time with the choke-hold. Remember the time with the splinters. It's our oral tradition, and we have these holiday gatherings in a different dining room now, but we're still carrying around these stories. We're still getting angry at each other for old hurts. It's still my favorite holiday, because of the ceremony of the thing, the wine dropped like blood onto the plate, the calling of the plagues.