A day after an FUS Seder and a day before Easter Sunday and waist deep in spring break.
Julia and I went to the FUS seder yesterday. There is a Haggadah written for Unitarians and there are a lot of cultural Jews who are Unitarians (lapsed Catholics also make up a decent part of congregations). Previous to this time, we went twice in 2011 and 2012. Both times, I was uncomfortable. There were not many kids and Julia stuck out — her behavior was not out of control but she was not interested in the readings, hated waiting to eat the food that was laid in plain sight, and was not really talking to people she did not know. None of this was out of the realm of normal behavior for her age group. It was just that her behavior was in comparison to the adults who were there. Perhaps it was as simple as my own comfort level. I was not at home at FUS. I was not sure I belonged at the Seder and did not want to explain that I was there because David was Jewish, I loved doing Seders with him, and I wasn’t ready to do it at home. I think I left the first one red eyed and mute, it had been a very long night.
This year, finally, finally, it was different. There is something about assuming home. I signed us up for set up and we were there two hours before the festivities. We set tables and put ceremonial foods out for each table. I did whatever a very sweet older woman told me to do. In our chatting, I found out that her husband had died 4.5 years ago and although she still did Seders at home, doing at at FUS for the big group – almost 50 — was very comforting to her. I shared my experience and I did what I have always been good at. I helped her serve — getting up before the end of the service to help her with the soup and getting the soup bowls on the tables before the soup got cold.
We sat with some people we know. Not everyone at the table, but some old neighbors with whom it was wonderful to catch up with and a couple who usually go to Saturday service like we do. Conversation was not always flowing but I could feel myself extending myself and adding to keeping our socializing going. This is in sharp contrast to the last few years when I’ve felt myself a drain on social gatherings and a conversation stopper. I am not totally comfortable in large gatherings or gatherings of near strangers but it is a relief to have whatever I’ve needed to engage in company once again.
Julia is also at home at FUS. She helped at setup some but she also sat and read her latest adventure book — a birds with swords story — and talked to who ever passed or sat close to her. Some people know her, and some are surprised by her, but I’ve stopped feeling the need to explain her all the time or to protect her or her listener from what is difficult to understand. She is practicing. People at FUS will help her or will move away. And most will help. Last night, a number of them told me how charming she is. And I smile a very grateful thanks.
Once again, there were few children — a baby just one, and two little boys, 4 and 6 — and none to read the four questions or open the door for the prophet, Elijah. Julia jumped up and ran to the door for the later, and was more than willing to read the four questions. (In 2012, she could not do the reading) She didn’t love the whole ceremony but she was present for most of it. She took in all of it. She read along and out loud at the appropriate times and took a stab at singing the songs.
The Haggadah that we used omitted the story of the four kinds of children. That is my favorite part because the message is about including all children in the reading of the Exodus story, the teaching of the next generation. In the past I had thought of Julia as the child who did not even know how to ask any question, last night, she was almost the wise child, willing and eager to ask questions and to learning about her ancestors.
In a little while, we will pick up her new bike. We ordered it last week, and I’ve already been to the store and asked for some adjustment to be made before we pick it up. I am hoping. Yes, I am hoping that she will love it and we will be biking all summer.