Today is Passover and though I planned to attend temple with my father, I found I had too much homework, so I decided to attend another temple of sorts for me: the public library. I’m not sure if you remember the cartoon Arthur, which starred a bespectacled aardvark just trying to make it through the second grade. One episode of the show hit me particularly hard. It featured the line, “Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card,” which still strikes me as intensely as any great truth in life. I’ve adopted it as my personal motto, me being the type of girl that has my library card number memorized, so bookish that a childhood dream was to be locked in the library for a night, so positively in love with reading that my death will most likely occur by having a shelf of fat literary journals topple and crush me or from OD’ing on Shakespearean critical analysis. But I digress.
Once in the library, having more or less completed my math homework, I wander amid the racks, plucking soft covers from the stacks of volumes, remembering distantly that my dad is in temple. Soft focused memories of shofar players and matzo ball soup in past years tick through me and I feel a warm rush thinking about all of the Seders we’ve had with my father’s side of the family. I try to remember everything I can about the holy tradition, recalling snippets of the rabbi’s speeches but very little else, which is ridiculous, considering we JUST celebrated Passover last year at my aunt’s house.
I look up books on Passover in the library’s online catalogue but can only find children’s books. I trudge reluctantly to the children’s floor and am greeted by my own personal red sea of screaming babies. Terrific timing is a skill of mine and this gift rears it’s ugly head when I find that my sudden interest in Jewish holidays coincides with “BABY ’N ME Lap-sit Story Hour!”, also known as, “‘Let Your Child Go Wild as All of the Teenagers within a Proximity of One Hundred Feet Shrivel up and Die Inside’ Hour!”. Super. Christine, the librarian, knows me and Moses-es a path for me toward the Lemony Snicket books. Embarrassing how predictable I am, but not today, Chrissy, not today! I rush to the religious section, grab the first Passover book I find, aptly titled, IT’S PESACH TIME!!! and try to get the hell out, when I find a massive baby clinging to my leg like a pink cannon ball with a death grip. The mother waddles over and takes a picture of my new friend clawing my calf. Kill me now. When I finally get to the elevator and begin to read up on the story of Passover, my extreme feeling of liberation gives way to reality and I’m swarmed with guilt. I’m recalling the story in great detail now: the Pharaoh, the Jews, the escape from Israel, the rawness of it all. I suddenly find myself in a comfy chair, sandwiched between racks of periodicals that proper adults read like Cat Fancy and Recreational Ice Skating, but not knowing how I got there. My minute annoyances are absolutely nothing in comparison to the suffering in the story and my relief to be in a quiet area cannot even compare to being blessed with a land flowing with milk and honey (because WHO doesn’t love milk and honey?!).
Finding the afikomen (matzo hidden by adults for the children to locate), chanting out facts about matzo at the dinner table (each one followed by the exclamation, “MATZO FACT!”), watching my fantastic father say Dayenu for my siblings, myself, and my incredible mother. I haven’t forgotten these Passover memories, could never have forgotten them, especially that of my beautiful great grandmother tearing up as she spoke about the importance of family, smoothing the silk tablecloth with her wrinkled hands, the purest form of poetry I may have ever seen. Sitting there, crunching on a Granola bar, I give thanks to the Catholic god, the Jewish god, and any other god there may be, for making holidays such magnificent vessels for reminiscences, for a family as loving as mine (on both sides), and for the ease it takes to give thanks, be it in church, in temple, or in your very own public library.