It's 10 am, erev (eve) Pesach, and the house is tidyish, the laundry humming, and the crockpot doing marvellous things that require little from me.
It's crazy prize day! I told the kids this morning, and informed them that they can win a prize for getting dressed & brushed & breakfasted. And there's more - every time you help, you can win another prize! The kids looked aghast, then thoughtful. Recklessly, I threw my last card on the table. And, if you each help me THREE times before 10.30 am, we'll go do something fun.
(um. Think, woman, think. I'd planned to take them to the park, but it's pouring yuckies out there. Need incentive. Need outing.)
We'll go and get fish for the aquarium!
(niiiice. Real nice. Piscine sacrifice? Sure - whatever it takes, with the seder approaching, the cousins packing the car, and the Man at work.) Here we go, Team Imperfect!!
Fifteen minutes later, I had two dressed kids, one hunting for teensy, baby-cousin-unfriendly Lego, and the other contemplating his toothbrush. A half hour later, the Lego was packed upstairs, the toothbrush was used, and the breakfast cleared. In the kitchen, the crockpot was crockpotting, the potatoes boiling and the first charoset just, well, glowed.
Because cranberries and oranges can do that, you know. Apples in hand, I was reaching for the grater, the Eldest was moving the laundry into the dryer, and the Toddles was, well, doing something Toddleiffic. I flipped on the computer.
And remembered: on a different bit of earth, our cousins were waiting. Their mother was a sister-in-law to my grandmother, wife to one of my grandfather's brothers, beloved and acerbic, sharp-minded and determined. She'd silvered into a strong, stubborn matriarch.
We've been losing our matriarchs, lately. I remember the Eldest, wearing a turquoise t-shirt that matched his cousins, bouncing around at her 90th birthday. All dark eyes and flopping hair, he was astonished and overjoyed. All of these are cousins? he'd asked me. And I was nearly in tears at the pleasure of being able to answer, yes. All of them.
She'd sat at the heart of the turquoise swirl, smiling, hugging the kids as they read her something on a card. Watched the Eldest jumping off a stone wall, told me that he was just like the other kids. She was right, too. Smiled at me, with an edge of relax, you nervous Nellie. I had to grit my teeth to smile back, then. The currents of cousins swept the moment away, letting me have the time to realize that she was right.
She's resting now. She's gone.
Death doesn't fit with my gigantic To Do list, although it's incongruous to think it. Death is too harsh for the finger puppets that we'll have later, the cheerful reenactments of the Red Sea's parting, the seder bingo games. We've reshaped Pesach into something thoughtful, but mostly fun, hopefully satisfying. Gone is too abrupt, too harsh in this setting.
Or maybe, it's not.
I'm sitting on the kitchen floor, 10.30 am has come and gone - and the Eldest, breezing past, couldn't care less. I'm thinking about the fibers that hold our family together, the webbing of love and shared experience, the sense that a connection should be there, leading us to seek one out. Create it, if necessary. Pour ourselves into it, if we can.
I'm thinking that maybe, if I strip away the finger puppets and Moses costumes, Pesach can hold this, too. The harshness of loss, the ruthlessness of need, the necessity of an interweaving of person to person, that can lead us out of pain. And into a desert, I mutter, refusing to be too maudlin.
But in the desert, there was manna. And there were people, learning all over again how to weave their webs. But in this desert, I'm providing the lopsided manna, and the space for the tying of fibers, and weaving of webs. Which means that I'd better heave my ass off the floor, and go do it.
..and as I snip at myself, prickling myself into action, I can feel her - grin.