Late work schedules meant that Jack slept through most of the afternoon. Rachel slept, in, too. It had been quite a grueling week for all, and shabbat's all about resting.
We'd normally have gone to our friends' house (an hour away) early, to have time to visit, study together, sing and eat. There are friends who are more family, many times, than our actual relatives, and we seldom see them these days. We were delighted to be able to travel there later in the afternoon to relax and pool resources for the Passover Seder.
Our hostess had made everything ready, and we'd all pitched in the money required for the preparations. But there's no price you can put on the love with which she made everything comfortable and clean, and all the preparations. Everyone contributed a food dish as well...everyone meaning friends who, like us, over the past few years have come to gather at our host and hostess's home for Saturday time together, usually to study the Torah portion, visit together, sing together, and later to have Havdalah, the small informal ceremony that marks the end of shabbat and the beginning of the new week. The folks who've come together over the years have been a few from here and a few from there, and are lively, intelligent, opinionated, genuinely interested in studying together, and have grown to become a part of each other's lives.
All of "the gang" have made it through some illnesses, crises, celebrations, gains, losses...and it's so nice to see a group this diverse enjoy knowing each other as much as we enjoy debating ideas and finds when the Torah study raises questions and issues. There's just no other group we've had this much fun with, digging into real questions, looking for real answers, arriving at an array of convictions and opinions, and then good-naturedly all crying Uncle and eating together and catching up with the latest happenings in our weekly lives. It's how I think of family at its best :)
We just haven't been able to get together with these friends in...well, seems like FOREVER.
So Passover for us was a reunion!
We did make it there in time for some down time, to hang out at their house and sit around catching up with everyone we've missed seeing for so long. Here are a few of "the gang"...the others are lounging around elsewhere in the house, talking, dozing, or playing with the babies!
Havdalah was at the dining room table, and then we went "downstairs" to the larger room for the Seder, for the rest of the evening. "Downstairs" is what used to be a garage, and now is a multi-purpose room adjoining a small kitchenette with a pass-through for food. Here's some more of "the gang" during the "eatin'" portion of the evening. No, we're not in any of the pictures :)
Above the room is a small apartment that is rented to a wonderful couple who lost their condo in one of the hurricanes. All of this is out in the country...pretty much in the middle of (nearly) swampland, and very quiet and peaceful.
Passover was rejuvenating, relaxing...wonderful. No telephone call can quite take the place of sitting around on sofas or at the tables with undivided "catching up" sessions, laughter, and seeing the ones you love eye-to-eye, and hug-to-hug.
The Seder had traditional elements, but also was personalized and flexed to the moment. There were the readings from the Haggadah, one put together personally by our hosts from different sources. There were the questions, the washings before blessings, and the retelling of the Exodus story.
There were the symbols on the seder plate, and the traditional foods eaten for specific reminders.
There was the fabulous rush of horseradish fumes up the nose (a yearly high! ha), and the children's hunt for the afikomen.
There were the four cups drunk together throughout, with specific meanings. There was delicious food and sober remembrance...and laughter :)
I really really REALLY needed this time with our friends, to be family and to enjoy the comfort of having this in common together. Our hosts are talented musicians, and we all sang...and sang, and gosh, how I miss that, too! It's not the sort of worship that has to be starched and stiff, but it's also not a "driven" sort that strives to be emotionally charged. No, it's NORMAL...or at least what I think of as the best normal can be...natural, not forced...and not (well, how to say???)....WEIRD.
But then again my "normal" is probably "weird" to other people, lol...so I'll move right along...
Summary: It was great to be with family!! To be ourselves with all our imperfections, to care about each other, to love God together, to get back in touch with those we've really missed...and to share a celebration we look forward to every year (I think it was designed for that purpose :)) Well, YAY...
And as we say every year after all the fun, when saying our goodbyes and are rather sad it's all ended and won't be back for another 12 months...
"Next Year In Jerusalem!!!!!"