All week, it’s Passover preparation: hiding all the matzoh and matzoh soup mix (along with the macaroons — do not even ask where they are, my sons!) to keep my family from inhaling it all, stuffing massive amounts of vegetables into the refrigerator to be transformed into our traditional (for our Passover, at least) vegetarian shepherd’s pie, and rolling my eyes at the dog when he tries to eat the plastic glasses we would have been using. Tonight the men in my house clean while I cook. Tomorrow, we rent tables and chairs and carry them into position on the porch or in the dining room/living room. I don’t mind any of it; it’s my favorite holiday, hands down.
Yet this Passover, I feel both an outrageous abundance and accumulating grief nipping at my heels. Springtime is over-the-top ahead of itself to the point of impersonating summer, chiggers, ticks and all. The leaves on Cottonwood Mel have, in one week, poured themselves into full form, now fluttering in the wind. The rain came last night full-force, then the clouds and dampness earlier today, and now clear skies and crisp sunlight. Everything is everything.
At the same time, I’m thinking a lot of Lou Frydman, who has done Passover with us for many years. Two and a half months dead, and yet it still seems to me that he’s going to show up. I’m also thinking of Ben Zimmerman, who spent well over a dozen Passovers with us until he died at the end of his long, vibrant life. But. Yet. Strangely enough. I can’t reconcile the dead and the living at my sedar. It’s odd to me that Ben is gone although it’s been a long time. It’s odder x infinity that Lou is gone.
In the liberation, there’s oppression. In the lushness, there’s drought. In the beauty, there’s grief. Passover is a time to celebrate freedom while not forgetting freedom’s cost in human suffering. In the middle of it all, I love and miss Ben & Lou, and I love this moment of arrival that is Passover to me.
So this year, we’ll have not just our usual cup to Miriam and cup to Ben, but a cup to Lou. Someone or a few of us will drink all that wine, and in the middle of the sedar, we’ll eat the bitter herbs and sweet choroset together in the little matzoh sandwich, saying out loud, “Life is a mixture of the bitter and the sweet. Have a taste of life.”