Every spring I remember; every Passover I celebrate.
I have mostly forgotten the Passover that fell right before my wedding. I don’t remember who led those seders. I don’t recall what was served for dinner. I was too busy thinking of the last minute wedding details (Did we need programs? When would the yarmulkes be ready? How did I go about changing my name?) And then I realized that I’d miss the whole holiday. I ceased thinking about my impending departure from the single world. I sipped my wine and tried to relax, and focused on what was important.
Two years later, I sat at my husband’s aunt’s table. We had been trying for a baby for a few months, without results. I wanted to take my mind off my disappointment, and enjoy the evening with my family. I poured a glass of wine in anticipation of the start of the seder. My husband’s little cousins were wrestling under the table. The older one hit his head, and the whole table shook like a California earthquake. My wine glass wobbled, tipped, and splashed all over me. The stain would stubbornly cling to my blouse after several washings. By the time I threw it out a week later, I didn’t mind. It wouldn’t have fit for long, anyway. I was pregnant.
The next year, Passover would arrive right after my daughter’s simchat bat (Jewish ceremony for the birth of a daughter). Both sides of our family had come together. We spent a perfect afternoon celebrating our new baby girl. Her middle name was for my husband’s beloved grandma. I held my hagaddah with one hand and my daughter in the other. Her baby eyes were beautiful, and already dark, like all my husband’s family. She scanned the Hebrew text with interest. I touched her finger to the page. She giggled as we traced the Aleph Bet.
A year later, I discovered I was expecting again. My husband and I agreed that it was too early to tell anyone, and I didn’t want to detract attention from my newly-engaged sister. Concealing my condition was tricky. Violently nauseous and horribly dizzy, I barely managed to get through the Seder. I pushed my food around on my plate. My mother wordlessly handed me a bowl of her famous matzah ball soup. I took a tentative sip, and then slowly, slowly finished the bowl. It went down and stayed down. The baby inside me was sated.
The aforementioned soup is a family tradition; the recipe is top-secret. My mother swore that she’d only pass it down to a daughter or grandchild. But when I walked into my mother’s kitchen last spring (juggling a toddler, an infant, and 500 pounds of gear), I found my brother’s girlfriend salting broth and peeling carrots. My brother told us that he was going to marry this wonderful girl. And so my family would expand once again.
When spring comes, so does the promise of something new–or someone new. Or someone changed. I am not the girl I was a few years ago. My family has reshaped me. I willingly give pieces of myself to them. Time is marked by weddings and births; by nap schedules and bath time; by random tantrums and bursts of sweetness; by sleepless nights and gallons of coffee; by cooking, working, and daycare pickups. It is exhausting and imperfect. The warmth of my husband’s chest sustains me. It is a good life. Every spring, I remember. Every Passover, I celebrate my freedom. I am free to choose, and I choose to be bound by love.