When our daughters were young my family threw itself zestfully into Jewish observances. We lit candles on Friday nights and said Havdalah. We wrote our own Purim play and made magnificent Esther costumes. We baked Rosh Hashana challah and built a sukkah. The girls went to the temple nursery school, religious school and children’s services. Our holidays were solemnized with the little craft objects they would make; a wooden spice box for Havdalah, cardboard fruit shapes to decorate the sukkah and a pink felt bag, covered with glitter, in which to hide the Passover afikomen.
As our daughters grew older they grew impatient with some Jewish traditions and ruthlessly jettisoned many of their childish creations, but they continued to regard Passover with enormous affection. They still searched for the afikomen, always concealed in its pink felt bag. Over the years the glitter had come unglued, and I had to do some tactful repairs to the border, but in essence it was the same little felt bag that 3-year-old Clara had assembled so proudly at Temple Emanuel Nursery School.
Times change, of course, and so do places and people. The child-oriented Passover Seders of the past gave way to more adult celebrations. Last year Clara’s sister was off at college and Clara, a high school senior, was celebrating her last Passover at home. Clara hated being the only “child” at the table and invited her two best friends to join us. The three girls spent the day chopping apples and walnuts, polishing silver and practicing the Four Questions. Clara’s friends had never attended a Seder before, but they were good sports. Clara, a veteran of years of high school chorus, drilled her guests phonetically in the Hebrew; when the moment came, the three girls rose to their feet and sang in exquisite harmony. Her friends claimed to be the “wise children” of the parable, the children who asked questions. They threw themselves bravely into the unknown, sampling the horseradish, the gefilte fish, the matzo and the charoset. They recited the names of the plagues with gusto, sprinkling their plates with drops of wine, and went as a group to open the door for Elijah and to find the afikomen in its little pink bag.
It was our last “children’s Seder.” Even if she comes home from college for the holiday, Clara’s childhood years are over. She and her friends are 18; too old — they feel — to seek wisdom from their elders.
As we cleared up after the Seder, Clara told me her friends had liked it. “They think you’re cool.” (The ultimate accolade.) Clara packed away the Haggaddot and the Seder plate. She picked up the pink felt bag. “You know, I think we’re too old for this.” (Yes, I know.) “But we should keep it.” (Definitely.) “In case, you know, someday you have children here for a Seder.” (Well, yes. Just in case.)
Sophie Glazer writes from Fort Wayne, Ind.
Do you have a favorite Jewish object, traditional or not very? The Forward is seeking short essays, 500 words or fewer, describing such objects and what they mean to the writer. Send your contribution or suggestion to firstname.lastname@example.org.