Spring has finally sprung.
In the Northern hemisphere, plants, flowers and spring showers are set to work. In England, it is now that the sun has decided to be that sneaky but unreliable guest star who makes an appearance every now and then. In North London, on the good days, you will see a long line commencing at the ladies’ pond and weaving its way through the heath; we have all been waiting to dip our water deprived bodies in our very own metropolis swamp. “Get out my swamp,” the Hampstead ladies scream in their high-pitched Shrek voices. Wild swimming is their least expensive addiction these days.
However, in my house, spring has sprung also means that our festival of renewal and liberty has begun. Passover. Yes, that’s right: it’s that dreaded time for a prescribed no-bread diet, out with the crockery and in with the wedding china, boiled eggs chopped in hot water, enough pickles to have fed my family’s entire shtetl – what fun for the stomach! Passover has crept up on me; only, this year, the hardest thing to explain to less religious zoom guests won’t be why we eat horse radish in a cracker sandwich with an odd but weirdly satisfying paste, no, not even close. Rather it will be why there is a wide eyed, Christian baptised (her grandpa’s Jewish though!) J-curious girlfriend sitting between me and the Chabbad Hagaddah.
Yes, Nana and Papa, I’m bisexual and no, she is not just a friend. Yes, her hair is curly, but no, she is not that Jewish. Yes, she has been to Israel (bizrat hashem) but no she cannot read Hebrew. She can read Sarillic though, so that’s something. Yes, she is the youngest here but no that does not mean she can sing out Ma Nishtana alone.
Here we go, singing Ma Nishtana together. My tone death voice carries us through a song I’ve listened to all my life. And… it’s over, exhales. You did great.
As the seder draws to a close we let in an imaginary guest. We open the door to Elijah and leave them the fifth ceremonial cup. Elijah is our prophet. Symbolising a future epoch of prosperity, spiritual peace and redemption. They are supposed to bring on the messianic age; high pressure for a religion’s shared imaginary friend, if you ask me. One thing about Elijah is that Elijah looks different to everyone, an intangible figment of our imagination that will bring peace of mind. You’re no longer an imaginary figure in my life. You are here, laughing along next to me, possibly bringing peace, but possibly bringing destruction.
Throughout this holy interactive eating experience, one is supposed to ask oneself: why is this night different from all other nights? Why do we lean back? Why do we drink four glasses of wine? Why do we eat egg soup? Why do we spend hours looking for a hidden piece of matzah? Why?
My hand fumbles over the ceremonially wine-stained napkin to touch my girlfriend’s nervous hands. We lock eyes. This night is different from all other nights because you are here, bridging the separation from my current university identity to my age old familial identity. So many symbolisms are scattered along the table but yet you symbolise to me what Passover has always been about: spring, renewal, and liberation.
Spring has finally sprung and there’s no hiding now.
Image courtesy of Aniket Bhattacharya.