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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