The end of Passover, I hosted a seder for my partners for the first time. Actually it was the first time I'd ever hosted a seder at all; we haven't yet shifted the hosting from my parents' generation to mine. Partly because parents have a big house, they're of a generation where you could afford a big family home on one professional's salary, and the picture is very different for us. And partly because Mum is a very good host and experienced at making celebratory meals for large numbers, dealing with both religious and medical dietary requirements. And also the first time my OSOs or their children had attended a seder, which is not surprising given that they're Christian, but still a novelty.
We didn't do this last year mainly because Passover overlapped with Easter in ways that made it unfeasible, but also because we were still very new and even less advanced in working out how much we wanted to participate in eachothers' religious lives. In fact, last year Passover was when I told my family of origin about the relationship.
Anyway, I'm really pleased with how it went. It wasn't perfect, but it was pretty good. ghoti helped with the cooking, which made it manageable and not too daunting, and also gave us a really nice afternoon together. What we ended up with was somewhat less elaborate than what Mum and chef sister would have done, and it was for 7 rather than twice or three times that number, but it was definitely a really celebratory meal and a lot more exciting with ghoti involved than I would have managed on my own. Especially since she was in charge of the dessert, and I really don't know how to do Passover desserts.
It turns out that I have reasonably good ideas for running a seder with small children involved (which is really most seders, it's just that my family of origin has no younger generation so our seders have been adult-only for some years). And I have reasonably good ideas for running a seder for people who have never been to one and have little idea what to expect. But I kind of struggled when the latter were the parents of the former, because I couldn't really combine making the ceremony simple and fun and short, with explaining everything that needed explaining. So I let things run really too long, and rather screwed up the end of maggid around the second cup because I was rushing over that bit too much, realizing that I'd extended things beyond the time it was reasonable to expect young children to concentrate. In particular, I managed to completely leave out the handwashing, which is ritually important and also significant to Christians.
But it wasn't a disaster; providing snacks during the ceremony, Baraita-style, helped, and Andreas was generally able to play independently and dip in and out of the boring religious bits. A thing that didn't work as well as I'd hoped was putting a basket of plague-themed toys on the table; ghoti had fun assembling the basket, including such amazing things as lego hailstones, but I failed to make it clear that the toys were for playing and fiddling, people treated them as just a table decoration or a ritual object for the ceremonial explanation, and they basically stayed in their basket the whole time.
I really need better haggadahs; I was leading out of the Swedish version of Zion and Dishon's A different night, which is great but, you know, in Swedish. And I distributed a version of a completely basic vanilla hagaddah that my parents happen to have six identical copies of, which I thought would be an advantage in being able to follow. But actually that advantage was outweighed by the really bad typesetting. I hadn't realized quite how confusing it was going to be not to have Hebrew and English in parallel on facing pages – this was a problem even though I was working almost entirely in English. Nor how much the lack of typographical distinction between headings and body text, or Biblical verses and midrashic commentary, was going to be impenetrable to people who have no familiarity with the service.
I was pleased with how much the two older children got out of it, though. Judith (7) was amazing, especially, she was really really attentive and interested throughout, and asked fantastically profound questions, such as discussing what it says about God that the four hundred years of slavery was planned, and getting really into the interpretation of God's
mighty hand and outstretched arm. We ended up talking quite a lot about the differences between Jewish and Christian views of making images of God, talking about God having a definitely metaphorical body in Jewish thought, but a real physical body for Christians. And I got to actually use one of the traditional midrash texts in the hagaddah as a completely organic answer to her real question, the one that expounds
the hand of God is upon the cattleand
a sword outstretched over Jerusalem, which is not usually a very prominent section of the hagaddah, it's more one of the bits that gets skipped when you're short of time. Also she really really grokked the bit where it's a celebration of our personal redemption, not just something that happened to distant ancestors in a story, and has referred to that concept in conversation several times since <3
Benedict, who is 17 and the son of a historian, contributed some really good discussion about the relationships between myth and real world history. I think I made clear to him the key point I was trying to convey, which is that skepticism and questioning are very much an integral part of a seder, not just something we're tolerant of, so I wasn't expecting him to pretend to believe in anything in order to participate (let alone trying to convince him to change his beliefs).
As for the adults, they said that doing this made them feel loved and included, and that's the big thing. I'm talking about this as a Jewish educator, what worked and what didn't liturgically, but it was as much an expression of love and belonging. I fitted in quite a bit of midrash on Song of Songs, and I told my people how my family make charoset, and I didn't end up doing a full grace for various reasons but if I had I totally would have done the thing of changing the final words to te amo. But anyway, I think I did manage to convey some of how the Jewish way of handling and arguing about text works, and cjwatson commented that there were lots of different explanations for everything. So if I've managed to convey the idea of דבר אחר I think that was useful in its own right. Plus I got to pounce on people with spring onions, because how many times in my life am I going to run a seder for people who are totally new to it and will actually be surprised? jack was very good about keeping quiet about the coming surprise, besides which he did a great job of telling my family's traditional different k|night pun.
Anyway, after that we had a lovely lovely weekend. We shared pizza for isru chag, and then on the bank holiday Monday we participated in another Star Wars Day event. That's not a new thing, but it felt really nice that we made an effort to get ourselves up early even after disturbed sleep because, based on last year, it's a tradition. And it's a really big deal to Judith, and I feel incredibly loved to be part of celebrating a family tradition like that. I dressed up as General Leia from the new film, having cosplayed traditional Princess Leia from the original trilogy last year, so that was cool. It was also really heartening to see so many kids dressed up as Rey.
Another new thing is that this weekend, cjwatson and I hosted his dad and partner as a couple. We played in the park, and hurried indoors when we realized the children had been out in the sun maybe a bit longer than was wise, and boyfriend and I made dinner, with his dad's partner contributing dessert, and it was really congenial. I'm really touched at how warm they're being towards me, and it was a nice lowkey way to get to know eachother a bit more.
I feel that my relationships with partners' children are growing and becoming more solid too, but that's even less about individual milestones than a non-escalator romantic relationship. Perhaps the real significance will be when I stop noticing every single slightly novel interaction with them, and stop carefully replaying each one and trying to decide whether I balanced everything right. And get to the point where I can usefully talk about this stuff here without getting kind of choked and inarticulate.
A somewhat less positive new thing is that with one thing and another I've ended up not getting to see ghoti for a month. It's not a very big deal, and if it's the first time we've been apart for this long it's not by much. I spent all of my 20s in relationships when I didn't see my partners for weeks or months at a time anyway. In sum, I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that I miss her, I feel like adults should be able to cope with minor separations like that, but anyway.
Meanwhile I'm handling a potentially career-threatening crisis at work in the middle of my busiest month of teaching, which is why I'm not very present online or in one-to-one communications lately. Definitely getting to spend time with my loves and put work stress out of my mind at weekends has been helping a lot in coping with this. But I'm hoping to be more in communication soon.
I prefer comments at Dreamwidth. There are currently comments there. You can use your LJ address as an OpenID, or just write your name.