January 20, 2005
When's the earliest you can start planning for the holidays?
It was only December when the calls started coming in. I had barely closed the drawer on my menorah and was about to remove the blue wax stains near the window (hopefully without chipping the paint on the windowsill) when the phone rang.
"What are you doing for Pesach?" my father asked. "Are you coming going to Israel? Are you coming in?"
By "in" he meant into New York, and probably by New York he meant Brooklyn, Flatbush, Bay Parkway, his house, his seder.
It wasn't too long after that when my mother called to ask me the same question, albeit in a more roundabout manner: "So, how are you? Thank you for the lovely bracelet. Did you get the check I sent you for Chanukah? I know you were saying you didn't have a budget this year for traveling, so I thought I'd help you out a bit.... So are you coming in for Pesach?"
It's not like my mother wanted me to come to her house in Riverdale for Passover; actually, she'd just rather hightail it out here. (By "here" I mean Los Angeles.)
But here's the thing I couldn't tell either of my parents. Who the heck is up to Passover? This year it's practically in May --five months away. On Dec. 16, I was just about to start planning Christmas and possibly New Year's, if I got around to it, and after that, I was just going to start thinking about Martin Luther King Jr. Day (I got last-minute tickets to San Francisco). Try explaining that to people who eat, sleep, breathe and travel by the Jewish calendar.
"I haven't really thought about it yet," I said.
"Do you think you'll know soon?" My parents both asked separately. (They haven't been together for years but are bound by the same Jewish calendar.)
Forget the perennial issue of the divorced child, having to split holidays (especially holidays like Passover that don't really split equitably, when all that counts is the seder). The real issue is how can I get out of this endless cycle of Jewish holiday four-month advance planning?
The cycle of Jewish holiday planning reminds me of the dating cycle: First, it's "Are you seeing anyone? When are you going to get engaged? When are you going to get married? Are you pregnant? When is your son's bar mitzvah? Is your daughter engaged yet?"(!!)
Religious Jews plan so far in advance we're like the fashion industry -- the barest of bikinis in stores in January. Except without the bikinis. Our markers are the High Holidays (although we don't call it that): Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Pesach and, maybe, Shavuot. Sure, there are other ones in between, like Chanukah, this week's Tu B'Shevat, Purim and Lag B'Omer, but you don't really have to plan to do anything for those holidays.
Speaking of Lag B'Omer, I just found out that I'm going to Israel on the Bonfire Holiday for a friend's wedding. Which brings me back to my parents' first question of Pesach. Because the wedding is on May 27, and Passover is on April 24, I will not be able to head to the Holy Land for the holiday, which is too bad, because they have a brilliant tradition of having only one seder (!) -- neither of which is at my parents' houses.
So now I'll have to think up another place to go for Passover. In order of preference: Paris, Boca Raton, New York or, believe it or not, here. I am actually considering making my own seder or two for my own friends. But the thing is, if I do that, I have to start planning. Who is going to be in town? Who is going to be dating whom? What can they cook? And will their house be kosher enough? If I'm going to make Pesach in my house, I suppose I've got to start planning it now.
Now? Now, as in mid-January?
"So, what are you doing for Passover?" I ask my friend Jeff.
"Passover?" he says. "Isn't that in, like, May?"
Oy Vey Z'mir. I'm turning into my parents, and I'm not even a parent myself yet. But what's a girl to do? If this is how the world works, maybe I should just go with the flow. Maybe I should embrace the religious conversation starter of, "So, what are you doing for (insert upcoming Jewish holiday or event here)?"
In the spirit of embracing my roots, I've already booked a ticket to New York for Purim (it's also my sister's birthday). But to be honest, I haven't a clue what I'm gonna do for Passover. If you have any good suggestions, please, let me know.