[The Warshaw family is celebrating Passover]
“I’m coming, I’m coming.” Irene swept into the living room, looking even more flustered than Marie, her face red, her forehead shining. She was wrapped , as on all special family occasions , in one of a number of flowing garments she had made for herself, according to her own design, drawing her inspiration, as far as I could determine, from the caftan, the muumuu, and possibly from certain episodes of Star Trek. “I was just having a little problem getting the Seder plate arranged. The one we bought in Mexico last winter.” She carried the broad, painted earthenware plate to the table and started to set it down in front of Irv, beside the matzohs, then stopped and stood frowning at it, shaking her head. It was a pretty thing, decorated with green vines and yellow flowers and dark blue undulations, and loaded up with the usual ritual foodstuffs. “I’ve got the moror, and the parsley, the charoses, the bone, the egg … Damn it, I can never remember what this sixth little circle is for.”
observations: In one of the best extended scenes of this marvellous book, Grady Tripp has come to visit his wife’s family for Passover, bringing along with him one of his students (and a dead dog and a tuba). He says ‘they weren’t my family and it wasn’t my holiday, but I was orphaned and an atheist and I would take what I could get.’
Irv will shortly be looking around the table:
at which sat three native Koreans, a converted Baptist, a badly lapsed Methodist, and a Catholic of questionable but tormented stripe, lifted his Haggadah, and began, unironically, “Once we were slaves in Egypt …”Earlier all the men have chosen yarmulkes from a box, each relating to a past social event – wedding or bar mitzvah. Grady Tripp is fighting hard with his wife Emily, and Irv says rather sadly: "families are supposed to get bigger. This one just keeps shrinking."
All of Emily’s family are great, well-drawn characters, but older sister Deborah is particularly delightful. Grady says:
there had been times in the past when my sister-in-law’s counsel, while never useful, had provided a certain amount of welcome bemusement, like the advice of an oracular hen.The book is wonderful and the 2000 film is terrific, although sadly they miss out this Passover scene, and Emily never appears.
This book got something of a rough deal, from lesser hands, in this entry. There's a Passover meal in this book.
Passover picture from the Centre For Jewish History. Second one is from a family seder held in 1949 in St Paul’s Minnesota, from the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest.