What is it about children? When they are young, you take great pains to make sure that they know right from wrong, treat people fairly and develop a sense of responsibility—all to ensure that they never will make a mistake in the future. And then they get older and ruin everything.
Many of you gentile folk (and even a couple of you closet Jews) are completely mystified by the ancient tradition of the Passover Seder.
What happens during the Seder?
What mystical artifacts are required for the ceremony?
Where do I buy lamb’s blood for the doorway?
Well, I can de-mystify most of these things right here and now. Except the lamb’s blood question. That’s just creepy.
Taken in reverse order, here are the necessary supplies for conducting your basic seder version (not the PRO version; that requires payment through an active Paypal account).
3. Matzoh (or cardboard; it’s your call)
4. Horseradish (or horses or radishes)
5. A mixture of nuts and sweet, red wine to mimic mortar (It actually tastes sweeter than mortar, if memory serves)
Now that you have your supplies, IT’S SEDER TIME!
1. Fill the wine glasses. Something, something biblical tradition. Drink the wine.
2. Wash your hands. Sing “Happy Birthday” twice in Aramaic to make sure you are germ-free.
3. Dip some lettuce into the saltwater solution. This is the culinary high-point of the Seder, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
4. Recount the ancient story of Charlton Heston and Yul Brenner and a cast of thousands.
5. Inflict plagues onto your family members at the table (my favorite part, by the way).
6. Drink some wine. Is it getting warm in here or what?
7. Break off a piece of matzoh to save for dessert (I kid you not).
8. Eat some matzoh with horseradish and mortar. BAM! Horseradish!
9. Eat some matzoh with only horseradish. Then, pick up your sinuses off the floor.
10. Wash your hands again and feel like a serial killer.
11. Eat the Passover meal. Who has room with all that delicious horseradish burning its way through your gastrointestinal tract?
12. Eat the matzoh you saved for dessert. What, some kids hid it and demand money for its return?. Screw it, it tastes like crap anyway.
13. Pour more wine. Drink more wine. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
14. Shling some hebrew shongs. No really, it’s getting quite warm in here.
15. Something, something I don’t remember right now. So how you doin’?
16. Another glass of wine? Don’t mind if I do. Um…I don’t feel so good.
17. Promise to convert frequent flyer miles and meet in Jerusalem next year or when airfares are slashed.
One of my family’s most unusual traditions (and we have more than a few; who can forget “The Unfurling Of The New Toilet Paper Roll”?) is our annual celebration of Daylight Savings.
I believe the ceremony has pagan roots, that group of funsters who wore robes and invented Christmas trees. Things have changed since then. Our robes are now fuzzy, with pictures of Hello Kitty on them. Well, at least mine does. My daughter’s has skulls on hers. But I digress.
Anyway, around 2:34am (give or take a few), I wake up the family from their Standard Time slumber and have them don their fuzzy robes. Then we light candles and form a sleepy processional downstairs to the kitchen. After the last small fire on the floor is extinguished, we make our way to the microwave oven—containing the only clock in the house that is not self-adjusting.
At that point comes “The Reckoning”, otherwise known as the argument as to which direction we alter the clock. Is it 1 hour ahead? Is 1 hour back? Typically, we compromise and set the clock 1/2 hour in some direction or another and then we go back asleep, assuring that we never get to our next appointment at the appropriate time.
Tradition. It’s what forms the family backbone. And possibly the family spinal fluid as well. Which is yucky but equally important, according to most medical experts.
Today I bring my daughter back to college. Whatever knowledge she acquired during her first semester has no doubt worn off by now. Besides, I was growing a little weary of those “I’m eighteen years old and you can’t tell me what to do can you drive me to my friend’s house?” arguments.
The month she was home went by quickly, as many pandemics seem to do. There were so many fun times, although none of them actually involved the two of us. She retrieved her grades, which were a mild disappointment to anyone actually betting on her failing out. Still, mathematically speaking, she will have to earn a 16.2 GPA this coming semester to have her overall cumm soar into mediocrity. I told her that I believe she is capable of achieving GREATNESS, as long as she doesn’t let her attempt to get an education stand in her way.
The ride back up to school will be poignant. A tear will likely be shed, albeit mostly due to the mold levels in her college town. “Someone can breed penicillin up here with just an air sample,” I once told her. “What’s penicillin?” she asked. Perhaps I just should have created a bonfire with her tuition money.
But once we get back to the dorms, her roommates and other assorted friends will rush to see her, spinning tales of tattoos and piercings and academic probation. Yes, there will be a lot of catching up to do. They’ll run back to their rooms, giggling, leaving me alone by the car with her duffel bags of clean laundry and tubs of extra-fatty snack foods. Perhaps she will remember to come back and get them. Perhaps I will shrug my shoulders and merely offer them to the first hobo who passes by.
Either way, I will drive back home with one less child in my day-to-day life, and I think I’m OK with that. And by “OK” I mean deliriously happy almost to the point of losing my mind. What can I say? I’m just an old softie.
Sometimes being a parent is a joy. This usually takes place when the children are out of the house, perhaps sleeping over at a friend’s, at summer camp or college, fighting in some foreign country or orbiting the earth in the space shuttle.
But I have to say that I do my best parenting when I let my wife do the parenting. She’s everything that I’m not. Patient. Kind. Well-liked among the children. Don’t believe me? Read the results of the latest Gallup poll. My wife scored quite high in likability while I came in a distant third behind a doorstop we used to have.
I have to admit, however, that doorstop was pretty special. I miss it.
I recently enlisted a (very cheap) P.R. firm to study this very issue and make recommendations. They said I could increase my likability index with my kids if they just would like me more. You get what you pay for, I guess.
Anyway, with that nugget of wisdom, I have set out to improve my relationship with my kids. And I think it’s working, too. Whereas once I was deeply loathed, now I am merely ignored.
But not always!
That’s right. My children do fervently seek me out when they need me to drive them places or give them money. Particularly when it’s my birthday, Father’s Day or when I am indisposed in the bathroom. But I am happy to oblige just to see their little eyes light up when they say, “Mom, who’s that guy using our toilet?”
One of our biggest traditions is the northern migration of family members from the greater metropolitan area to the mountains of New York State on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Scientists and amateur Family Watchers gather with anticipation to observe this great social experiment.
It starts when I load up the minivan with 2 teenage children whom I am already tired of by this point in the holiday weekend. As an added bonus, these two are also tired of each other. So why not place them in a confined space albeit one with wheels. It’s like taking a war zone exhibition on the road for academic purposes. Minus the academic purposes.
But what would a family trip be without a senior citizen to tag along, regaling the rest of us with tales from The Good Old Days and assorted non-sequiturs? I don’t know. I’ve never NOT had one of those. But I would be quite willing to find out.
Invariably, the whole tribe (complete with a somewhat shell-shocked, somewhat youngish uncle) arrives at their destination in a state of intraspecies non-communication. That’s right. We have already burned out on one another before the actual visit starts.
Some would call it a shame; I prefer to call it a timesaver.