My Passover dinners used to be extravaganzas. Maybe that's an exaggeration but they were important and big events for me. Upwards of twenty-five guests, the dinner table would be cobbled together using three tables and a desk. Different table heights be damned! I always hoped the varying colored and styled tablecloths were viewed as eclectic and not haphazard. I had enough dishes, having inherited China from my grandmother and great aunts over the years. They didn't match either but they were cool. Wedgewood, Lenox, Royal Copenhagen. My silverware had belonged to my mother's best friend, Carol Singer, who passed away. There was never enough of the right sized glasses but there was plenty of wine so no one seemed to mind sipping cabernet from a juice glass.

Holy days are about getting together and sharing our faiths, our traditions, and a whole lot of food and drink. The more the merrier, I used to think. But as the years went on, life shifted, dad passed away, old friends moved on and new ones came into the picture. My Passover dinners became less of a thrift shop spectacle and more of an intimate boutique-esque gathering. This was partially intentional and partially borne of necessity. 

I moved from a large home to a townhouse and then to an apartment. I tried to have a big holiday meal in my townhouse but with no space to mingle guests had to sit at the dinner table upon arrival. As the years passed, I enjoyed cooking as much as ever but my knees and back weren't as agreeable. And the cost, well, as I transitioned from self-employed back to a W-2 employee, was getting too expensive. But all in all, the real reason my holiday dinners transformed from the must attend event of the holy season (at least in my mind) to a who-is-Joanne-again? fete, is the guest list shrunk. Perhaps I have become more selective, or maybe my friends have. Most likely it is a natural attrition of life. 

Twenty-five people at the holiday table was cut in half, and then in half again. Last year there were seven of us. Tonight, I am bringing in two orders from NY Marina Deli: matzoh ball soup, chopped liver, chicken or brisket, green beans, potato pancakes, and sponge cake. Amid a whole lot of hand washing and sanitizing, the containers already tossed into the recycle bin and the food re-heated, a seder will stream from the Jewish Broadcast Station on my Roku. It will be just me and mom. If we weren't celebrating the holy days pandemic style there would be at least five or six of us at the Passover table. 

To keep the holiday tradition alive, mom and I will each have a different set of China as a place setting. Mom will get Aunt Blanche's Waterford. I'll use Grandma's Royal Albert. Carol's silverware will frame our plates. 

As life ebbs and flows we must bob along with it. Yet sometimes, as now, it hits us between the eyes and we are gobsmacked. No tears here, just gratitude to be able to spend the holiday with mom and for the new experience of streaming a Passover seder. I'm sure my phone will be blowing up with calls and texts from family and friends. Come to think of it, I will have twenty-five people at my dinner table, maybe more. While the guest list and the seder plate will be virtual, the Maxwell House Haggadahs and the meaning and spirit of the holy days will be very real.

To you and your family, for whatever holy days you celebrate, may this time be filled with love and light and resilience  I suggest you pull out a few different colored and styled tablecloths. Now is a perfect time to be eclectic. And don't forget to make room at the table for your extended virtual family and friends. That's how we do the holy days pandemic style.

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Joanne Lewis Blog


joanne lewis

When Joanne Lewis is not practicing law, she is writing. She pens murder mysteries, historical fiction and historical fantasy books and is the author of several award-winning novels. As an author, she hopes to entertain, to educate, and perhaps to enlighten. As an attorney, she is most proud of her work as an assistant state attorney and as a guardian ad litem representing the best interests of children.

Her books are available on Kindle, as paperbacks, and as audio books.

Her latest release is Bee King, a historical novel that is about the first person in the United States diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and takes place from the start of the Civil War until 1910. Just like the people who inhabited Five Points in lower Manhattan during the 1800s and the turn of the century, Bee King traverses the pentagonal streets where abolitionists battled copperheads, immigrants clashed among social, religious and political strife, and doctors and psychologists strained to help patients. Told in Five Points (sections), Bee King is dramatized through conventional literary devices as well as through newspaper articles, a manifesto, and other non-traditional tools.

The Forbidden trilogy consists of the novels: Forbidden Room, Forbidden Night, and Forbidden Horses. Forbidden Room is her best-selling novel.

In Forbidden Room, the first book in the Forbidden trilogy, new attorney Michael Tucker has few clients, yearns to be like his famous grandmother and cannot afford to move out of his parents' home. Sara Goldstein is an heiress accused of killing her uncle. When Sara hires Michael, he gets the chance to defend an innocent person, a beautiful lover and notoriety like his grandmother. But is it more than he asked for? Is Sara innocent or is she a murderer?

Forbidden Night, the second book in the Forbidden trilogy, delves further into Michael and Sara’s complicated relationship, as well as into Soldier Boy’s psyche, into their family histories, and into the creation of the carousel horses. The question posed in Forbidden Room, the first book of the Forbidden trilogy—Is Sara innocent or is she a murderer—is answered.

Forbidden Horses, the final book in the Forbidden trilogy, travels to the eighteenth century and takes place in Austria to reveal the troubled history of the creation of the carousel horses.

Michelangelo & Me is a series of five novellas in the genre of historical fantasy.

In the first book of the series, Michelangelo & the Morgue, seventeen-year-old Michelangelo defies religious and political powers in order to capture a serial killer who is murdering the artists of Florence. In Sleeping Cupid, the second book, Michelangelo’s believed-to-be lost statue narrates his journey from fifteenth century Florence, Italy until the present day where he lives in an attic in a sleepy Florida town. Future books in the anthology include Space Between, School of the World and Michelangelo & Me.

The Lantern is a historical novel about a modern-day woman's search to find a girl from 15th century Florence, Italy who dared to enter the competition to build the lantern on top of Brunelleschi's dome. Across time and space, three lives collide as they battle abuse, disease, fear and prejudice in pursuit of their dreams. Along the way, they intersect with some of the most famous figures of the Renaissance including members of the Medici, Filippo Brunelleschi, Donatello and a young Michelangelo.

Wicked Good, a different kind of love story, begins in Bangor, Maine. Fifteen-year-old Rory is not defined by his diagnoses of Asperger's syndrome and Bipolar Disorder and lives life to the fullest. Archer, his adoptive mother, is Rory's biggest fan. Rory searches for his birth parents to find out why he is the way he is. He discovers his roots in Salem, Massachusetts where the Salem Witch Trials had occurred, and in Gloucester, Massachusetts where fishermen went down with the Andrea Gail during the Perfect Storm. He also learns his true roots are closest to his home in Bangor. As Rory discovers truths about himself, Archer learns about herself too.

Make Your Own Luck is the unforgettable and moving novel of Remy Summer Woods, a young attorney who refuses to believe thirteen-year-old Bonita Pickney killed her father, Patrick Pickney. Remy risks her relationship with her own father as well as her life to prove Bonita's innocence. Along with learning what happened the night Patrick was murdered, Remy discovers hard truths about her family and herself.

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