Last night we attended a Passover Seder at Laura's apartment, a floor-through tenement on the outskirts of Soho, just skimming the crowded streets of Chinatown. It's a rare three-apartment building and her friends, Jiye and Bill live upstairs, which gives it a very homey, almost "Friends" quality, but of course they are anything but cliched sitcom characters. She also has access to a roof-top "terrace," that she has astro-turfed and dolled up a bit with lights and a Crate and Barrel picnic table. Never mind that the ventilation from the Thai restaurant next door blows is MSG-infused air onto the terrace from 5-10 each night. Not that it was warm enough to eat outside, but still, I wanted you to imagine the space.
Too bad developers will be destroying the building next door to build million-dollar condos in 6 months. But let's not talk about New York real estate. Last night was like no other night...
I fed my two kids leftover roasted Cornish Hen and white rice that I had cooked with shallots and finished with lemon zest and parsley, topped with a bunch of frozen peas, my secret weapon of toddler vegetable consumption (another pea standby is pea omelet.) Then, I took them to Spring Street park, a dirty playground in what used to be Little Italy, to run them silly, hoping that would calm them before attending the Seder. We had tried to get a babysitter, but our lovely college student Annette, was sick with Bronchitis, an illness that she most likely got from my two petri dishes of disease. Steve was doing a reading of his book, Dream (New Press) on the upper west side, so it was just me and the two boys, at an all-grown-up Seder in a small apartment that houses lots of glass.
At 6:30, we were the first to arrive. We settled in with our arsenal: bottles of milk, M&M's, 20 trains and a Heffalump DVD. Tobi and Omar, Sydney and Sebastien's godfathers came next, as did Peter and Nilou, Jiye and Bill and Alan, without his wife Susan. We took turns running after the kids and cooking and talking. By the time the Seder finally started, the kids were getting really antsy, meaning I spent the entire time coaxing them and trying to get them to sleep on the couch. Still, the ritual effected me. There was something quite sweet about a group of young (youngish?, under 40?) people, only three of whom are Jewish, taking part of this ancient ritual, going through all the sections, saying the prayers, talking about Elijah, even with the jokes and the irony and multiple glasses of pre-Seder wine. Warmed my atheist heart.
I was holding out until 9:00 when I thought Steve would be done and might come relieve me so at least I could sit down and eat. Everyone had contributed to the meal (except for me: I took a mother's exemption). Matzo Balls from some Westchester County deli that is supposed to be the best in the tri-state area were heated. I had been salivating over the baseball-size globes for the past two hours. There was also chewy, meaty, lamb shanks that Laura had pressure-cooked to great results.
Alas, Steve was delayed, Heffalumps had been watched, M&M's eaten, and the children wanted to go home. I pushed them back for as long as I could, but finally, Tobi and Omar helped me carry the rugrats down the stairs and get placed into the stroller. As I walked home through the cobble streets of Soho, its store-fronts gleaming well-dressed and hand-detailed consumerist fantasies, my doggie-bag of food weighing on my wrist, I was happy. Even though I didn't get to eat with the group, or say any of the prayers, even though I don't believe in God, the night was sweet and I felt like I belonged.