The Modern Passover Seder
"Are they running late?" David asked, noting the sun was going down, beginning the holiday of Passover.
He lifted the lid off the chicken soup and inhaled the delicious aroma. He smiled and nodded to Leah, who was cutting up her homemade gefilte fish. She was wearing the blue dress that matched her eyes, and at 47, she was more beautiful, more natural than ever. I'm a lucky man, he thought, to have such a wife.
"They're not coming," Leah answered. She blew back a strand of her brown hair that fell into her eyes while she sliced.
David's smile vanished.
"Not coming?! What do you mean not coming?"
"Sam called yesterday and that's what he said. He said, 'Tell Dad we're not coming to the Seder."
David slammed the lid back on the pot. Some drops of soup landed on the new dark suit he bought specially for this Passover.
"Why did you wait until now to tell me?"
Leah put down the knife and covered the serving dish. She walked over to her husband, unclenched his fist, and kissed his hand.
"I didn't want to ruin yesterday for you, too, honey."
David shook his head and stared out the window of their gourmet kitchen, a kitchen that cost the price of a small house when they remodeled it two years ago. He looked at the landscaping they had just added and the new wooden fence. He thought of his parents, when they were alive, bragging to their friends that their son lived on an estate in Lawrence, Long Island. An estate. Life was good in America.
Yeah, well, if life is so good, why do I have this knot in my stomach, David asked himself.
"Before we sit down to the Seder, Leah, do you have any other surprises for me?"
"I invited the Steinbaum boy to come over and say the four questions. He'll be here in 20 minutes, so let's get started."
David and Leah sat down at their oversized dining room table. It felt empty. There were only three place settings, instead of five. Sam wouldn't be there. Anna wouldn't be there. Jeremy …. his grandson … wouldn't be there. It would just be David and Leah and the "Steinbaum boy."
David poured wine into his silver kiddush cup and said the prayer. Leah said "Amen."
He began the Seder, washing his hands, dipping the Karpas, breaking the matzos, pouring another glass of wine. It all felt … mechanical.
There was a knock on the door, Leah answered it, leading the ten year old Steinbaum boy into the room. He was wearing a new suit that was two sizes too big, one that he would "grow into."
"Happy Passover," Nathan Steinbaum said cheerfully.
"Yeah … right … Happy Passover," Sam grunted back.
"Your timing was perfect, Nathan. We were just up to the Mah Nistanah," Leah said, forcing a smile.
David handed Nathan a Passover Hagadah.
"No thanks. I know it by heart." Nathan stood by his chair and chanted : "Mah nishtanah ha lilah hazeh mecall halaylos?"
David felt like his heart was breaking. He wanted his son to be saying the Four Questions. He wanted to see Sam sitting next to Anna, while they smiled at their son, sixteen- month-old Jeremy, sitting in a high chair, repeating what the "adults' were saying in childspeak.
He did not want Nathan Steinbaum "pinch-hitting" the Four Questions at his Seder table, a table that now felt like the same desert the Jewish people crossed thousands of years ago.
In the middle of Nathan chanting the Four Questions, David stood up and left the house.
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© Copyright 2012 by Zalman Velvel Inc.
You may print this story for yourself, but not make copies without author's permission.