Thursday, April 24, 2008

Kalamazoo and tigger too

birdy brain
Originally uploaded by charrow.
JJ, as depicted here in a piece of Charrow art, was one of our hosts for the past few days as Mr. Ben and I sojourned in the Southlands. These strange foreign lands, as it turned out, didn't feel as strange or foreign as I expected. In fact, Atlanta reminded me strongly of Seattle, only with more traffic and way less charm. People in Seattle also get bonus points for friendliness compared to their Southern counterparts, unless you count the bum in Asheville, NC, who, trying his hardest to make us feel at home, called after us, "Happy Hannukah!"

JJ was an excellent sport over the weekend in Asheville, where we were up to our chins in Judaica with Mr. Ben's family the entire time: she nibbled matzoh for breakfast without complaint and sat through both seders. Even when Mr. Ben's mom's SPP (straight person partner) Harry played Hebrew songs on his new harmonica with more exuberance than skill, JJ didn't flinch. A righteous woman, who can find her? Her worth is above rubies.

I realized during the service that these seders consist of lots of lying to God, and not just the standard "You're so merciful and gracious!" stuff. Just for example, there's a long prayer where the chorus goes, "It would have been enough!" -- i.e., if God had rescued us from Egypt but not parted the sea so we could get through, it would have been enough. The song continues, mentioning how the Lord brought us to the land of Israel and vanquished our enemies and built us the temple. But of course, if God had done one or even some of those things and not the rest, it wouldn't have been enough, not by a long shot. We wouldn't be here to tell the tale year after year.

Later, there's a true whopper set a beautiful, ghostly melody. It goes like this, roughly:
I have been young
And I have grown old
Yet never have I seen a good man starve

I mean, please. We teach this stuff to children?

After the second seder Sunday night, without waiting for the dough to rise, we packed up the Honda and sped past Bob Jones University and Clemson U., the South blurring into fast food chains and churches in the dark outside my window. Charrow and JJ's Little Five Points apartment is beautiful, all old wood and bright colors and windows everywhere. Mr. Ben's mom's house was the same way, charming and well-lit. (Not that I can complain about real estate, but we do pay the same for our place as my MIL spends on hers, only hers includes several bedrooms, a backyard, a stained-glass pantry, and more nooks and crannies than an English muffin.)

I hadn't seen Charrow since she guest-starred as Maid of Honor in the production that was my wedding nine months ago. That is much too long. She and JJ will be moving up here in the fall and the fall cannot come fast enough.


Rebecca said...

Exactly! We spend so much time lying to god. I was just at Leah's family's seder - which I love partly because they wrote their haggadah - which has a portion after the "it would have been enough" repetition pointing out that clearly it would not have been enough, but explaining why we say that anyway. I was happy that it acknowledged the lying.

The never having seen a good man starve part is horrifying! I've never heard/noticed that. So you are by definition not good if you are starving?

My only other thing to say, in real estate you are paying for where you are. And you are in Brooklyn! What could be better! I'm just cheerleading. Are Charrow and JJ moving to nyc? or somewhere else that is closer than where they live now? Also, I haven't seen you in forever and we need to hangout.

Ok, end of long comment.

ester said...

you are an excellent cheerleader. yes, you're right, i'm paying for brooklyn and clearly happy to do so, even if houses are available in atlanta, we discovered, for hardly any money at all. for like, what a rounding error on a nyc place would be.

the nice thing about these seders, though, was that they were casual: people would stop reading to bring up something that occurred to them and we'd discuss for a bit. i appreciated that.

Jesse said...

that "never have i seen a righteous man go hungry, or his children beg for food" line has long been controversial.

i read several articles on the current global food shortage on my way to rochester for pesach, and i guess that made my reaction to the previous verse a little more reactionary than usual: poteach et yadecha, umasbiah l'chol chai ratzon (you open up your hand and satisfy all living things with that which they need).

i'm sheepish to admit it, but i came close to tears several times this past weekend when the liturgy required me to recite that line.