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That's me, Pattie Weiss Levy.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

10:50 pm 

 A Word From the Weiss

Our 30th anniversary at The Water Club.jpg

       Normally, when I hear the word “anniversary,” it is preceded by the word "happy," and I respond with joy and jubilation and get ready to break out the Manischewitz.

        Nah, let's get real. Make that the champagne.

       That’s what my husband and I did last summer when we marked 30 years of matrimony by returning to the scenic seaside place where it all began, The Water Club in NYC.

Pattie and Harlan in Tiannanmen Square.JPG

       Since one dinner out was hardly enough to contain our joy (and jubilation at having survived 10,950 days and nights together without killing ourselves or each other), that celebration continued in the fall with a three-week Asian tour to Hong Kong, Beijing, and Bangkok.

       Of course, some anniversaries stir mixed emotions instead.

        My family and I were Grandma Bunnie young.jpgboth deeply saddened and in my case incredulous last week to realize that my own nice Jewish mom had now been gone for six whole years. (Wasn't she just here weighing in loudly on our lives and serving her incomparable mushroom barley soup?)       

        Yet when we were gathered together for Passover we still managed to derive no small amount of comfort and joy while reminiscing about her life and what an unforgettable character (with a distinct emphasis on the word "character") she had been.

JP and Allegra in Hong Kong.JPG

       We also were amazed and amused to learn that when my daughter told her German-Chinese boyfriend JP that April 4th was Grandma Bunnie’s yahrzeithe nodded solemnly, noting that yahrzeit means “anniversary” in German, so no further explanation was required.

     But any sense of joy or amusement over recent anniversaries stopped right there.

Yom Hashoah.jpg

     This week marked Yom HaShoah, otherwise known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, on which we commemorate the murder of 6 million Jews and millions of others during what were not only the darkest days for our people, but for all of human existence since time began. 

Nigerian kidnapped girls.jpg

      But this was not the only anniversary this past week to commemorate the mind-boggling extent of man's inhumanity to manMy emotions were anything but joyful when I woke up on Tuesday morning to learn that this was the one-year “anniversary” of the disappearance of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria at the hands of the militant group Boko Haram.

       One year? Seriously? How could this be?

       How could the world let this be?

       Of course, there has been no dearth of public outcry or publicity. But to what end?

       The Twitter campaign #bringbackourgirls has done little to bring back those girls.

Bring Back Our Girls.jpg

     As a nice Jewish mom, I can’t begin to get my mind around how their families must feel. If my daughter – or son, for that matter – disappeared for more than an hour or two (long enough for it to be clear that they weren’t either simply out of range on the subway or waiting for their phone to recharge), I would have hyperbolic conniptions, then deploy Liam Neeson or do whatever else it took to find her or him at once and bring them home safely. 

       And in this case, we are not just talking about one girl.

       We are talking about more than 200.

       An estimated 276.

       Girls.

       Letting a whole year pass without solving such an abomination is no “anniversary.”

       It is just a travesty.

Nigerian girls protest.jpg

       According to the Wall Street Journalthese girls are not alone in their horrid plight. The human rights organization Amnesty International contends in a new report that Boko Haram has in fact abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since the beginning of 2014, many of whom have since been forced into sexual slavery or trained and forced to fight alongside the insurgents.

      The young schoolgirls kidnapped in the northeastern town of Chibok are merely the ones who caught the world’s attention, they say, and became the catalyst for Nigerians to begin protesting the untenable level of chaos that their country endures.

Mother of kidnapped Nigerian girl.jpg

       Despite those ongoing protests, and regardless of the attention of the world, nothing has been done to recover the missing girls, who appear to have simply vanished without a trace.

       As you may have noticed, I rarely if ever write about politics or world events in this space, in part because I believe people get enough of that stuff elsewhere and also in part because when I write about my own life I know what I am talking about, and when I write about others' lives, I don’t.

        Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about in this case. But I am going to say it anyway.

#Bring Back Our Girls campaign.jpg

       According to a friend who appears to be in the know, the missing Nigerian girls cannot be found because they are no longer in one group. They have been carted away individually and simply disappeared. But that doesn’t mean they’re not still alive.

       It only means they may each be somewhere alone suffering in their own private forms of hell. 

       I don’t care if those girls remain in a group or have been sold into sexual slavery or other abominations one by one. If my daughter were among them, I would not be able to rest until she were found. And I would not want my government (or the rest of the world) to either.

       I feel the same way about anyone’s daughter. Or certainly, of course, anyone’s son.

       Let’s not let another day go by, let alone another anniversary. Forget the hashtag. It’s time to find them. Let’s bring our girls home and pick a day to celebrate that.

        Now, that would be a happy anniversary. 

10:37 pm 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

5:11 pm 

A Word From the Weiss   Pattie with Passover table.JPG

   As any nice Jewish mom knows, there’s no holiday meal more challenging to prepare than a Passover Seder. It’s like Thanksgiving on steroidsplus a whole lotta matzo products – and minus the bread stuffing, pumpkin pie, and dinner rolls, of course. 

       Seriously, if you ask me, there’s only one thing harder than serving a Seder in your own home, and that’s preparing a Seder to go that you will serve somewhere else.

       So when our family’s plans changed abruptly last week only the day before the holiday began, I was truly thrown for a loop.

Allegra with face mask in Hong Kong.JPG

       As I explained in rather excruciating detail last week (detail that was even more excruciating for me to live than it probably was for you to read), my daughter was suddenly grounded with a bad ear infection and unable to fly back from Hong Kong until late Friday night. My husband and I planned to pick her up at the airport in Newark.

       That meant postponing our big family Seder until Saturday night. But I couldn’t imagine doing nothing whatsoever to observe the first night of Passover on Friday.

       As long as we were going to be in the New York area, we were inclined to mark the holiday with our son Aidan and his girlfriend Kaitlin, and they were happy to be with us. The question was whether to go out for dinner or try to bring a meal to eat in their brand new apartment, which required schlepping the entire production more than 100 miles?

Kaitlin and Aidan on Passover.JPG

       Aidan instantly opted to take the easy route. It might not be the most intimate or traditional Seder we had ever had, but as long as I was already making the whole Megillah (or should I say Haggadah?) on Saturday night, shouldn’t we just eat out?

       I reminded him that although we normally don’t keep kosher, we do keep Passover. That meant all bread, pasta, and rice were verboten, so we couldn’t eat anywhere Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, or otherwise “ethnic. Other than that, I was happy to go anywhere. He promised to find somewhere suitable.

      But he called back within 20 minutes ready to throw in the proverbial towel. Every eatery that was even vaguely Jewish would be closed for the holiday, he said.

Talia's Steakhouse was serving a Seder.jpg

       Checking online myself, I found a place called Talia’s Steakhouse on the Upper West Side that was offering two seatings on both nights for an entire Seder meal. This rare opportunity came at a hefty price, however -- $125 per person including tax, to be precise. That would amount to $500 for the four of us; $600 including an appropriate tip.

The Crown Market exterior.jpg

       So I felt mighty proud of myself when I went to our local Jewish supermarket, The Crown, and managed to put together from their prepared Passover foods a complete meal for four for under $40. Of course, that included only the entrees (chicken Marsala for three of us and stuffed mushrooms for Kaitlin, who is vegetarian), as well as two kinds of matzo stuffing, a salad, and a pound of chocolate-covered macaroons for dessert.

       I would add my own homemade matzo ball soup, chopped liver, and steamed broccoli, as well as the charoses, parsley, and all the other items that went on the Seder plate.

Our Seder plate.JPG

       Speaking of the Seder plate, I had already set our dining room table with the one we usually use – the silver one Aidan brought back from Israel after going on Birthright – but I packed up the old one that my late mother gave us years ago.

        In the same bag, I began assembling everything else required to serve the meal and not leave a mess behind afterwards – a tablecloth, white Sabbath candles, paper plates for both dinner and dessert, plastic bowls for the soup, paper napkins, plastic cups, two boxes of matzo (one whole wheat, one regular) and of course, most important of all, the Haggadahs – our special Passover prayer books.

       On Friday, I was so excited that I would actually see my daughter by nightfall that I could hardly breathe. But I kept busy for much of the day making the brisket that I would serve the next night – a messy business, to say the least. I was also busy making the non-brisket.

       The vegetarian option, that is.

       The first time Aidan brought Kaitlin home for Passover, I wanted to make sure that she had a great experiencebut was a bit perplexed about how to alter the traditional meal. I served her matzo balls in canned vegetable broth instead of homemade chicken soup, although I knew it just wasn't the same thing.

Vegetarian brisket minus meat.JPG

        As for the entrée, I simply made a small extra batch of my usual brisket recipe, which includes potatoes, carrots, onions, and other vegetables, but I left the meat out.

       Since that time, I have served many meals to Kaitlin and become a little savvier. When she came for Thanksgiving, I bought her a nice stuffed Tofurky at Trader Joe’s. But for this, her third Passover with us, I came up with some better homemade options.

Chicken Flavor Base from RC Fine Foods.jpg

       Instead of settling for canned vegetable broth in which to float my matzo balls, I made my own, starting with chicken-flavored soup base from RC Fine Foods. It’s not only kosher and vegetarian, but vegan… and gluten free. Best of all, it tastes like real chicken soup! I boiled sliced carrots in it, along with some fresh celery, parsnip, parsley and dill, and when I served it to her it looked and tasted very similar to everyone else’s.

Veggie broth cooking.JPG

           The matzo balls are no problem either, by the way, because I banished schmaltz (chicken fat) from my recipe years ago in favor of a far healthier alternative – olive oil -- although I fry onions in the oil first to add flavor.

       As for the main event, I still am making her a separate pan of “brisket” sans meat. But instead of limiting this to veggies alone, this year I added some protein -- cubed Westsoy seitan, which I found at Whole Foods.

       Since seitan (a wheat-based protein) is already cooked, I added it toward the end of the cooking time. Kaitlin seemed to enjoy it and then happily took the leftovers home. So I can only assume that she did.

Vegetarian

       Here’s the recipe: Sauté a sliced onion in olive oil until beginning to brown. Add two cloves minced garlic, two sliced carrots, ½ cup sliced mushrooms, and a handful of green beans (for Passover, you can substitute broccoli or Brussels sprouts). Remove from heat and put in a baking dish with 1 cup tomato sauce and ¾ cup vegetable broth. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. It can be refrigerated overnight at this point. Before serving, add one package (about 1 cup) cubed Seitan or meat substitute of your choice and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes.

Bags I left by the door.jpg

       By the time I’d finished preparing this and the actual brisket on Friday, my husband had returned from work and we were already running late to leave for NYC. I’d put all of the perishable food into a big insulated bag by the door and asked him to load both this and the bag with all of my other accoutrements into the car while I finished my blog.

       After arriving nearly three hours later, we opened the car trunk to retrieve our bags.

       Make that bag. The insulated one with most of the food was there. The other one was not.

       “Where is it? I asked you to put the bags in the car,” I reminded my husband.

       “I told you that I couldn’t carry them both and to take the second bag,” he replied.

       “No, you didn’t!”

       “Yes, I did!”

       Whatever he may have said to me about that bag, he had not said it within earshot. At least I hadn’t heard it. I will spare you the hysterical, shrieking scene that ensued. Although it was the warmest evening we’d had all year, I must say I totally blew my cool.

Cereal found.jpg

       Whose fault was it really? I can't say for sure. But let's put it this way: The other day, he misplaced a box of cereal and a banana he was about to eat, until it finally turned up in about the last place you would look for a box of cereal and a banana. Would you or would you not say the man is seriously fedrayt?

       I rest my case.

       But never mind that. It was after 6 and we were on a tight schedule because Allegra’s plane was due to arrive in Newark by 9:40. Now what were we going to do?

       The good news was that nearly all of the actual food was with us, and so was the wine. OK, it was just Manischewitz. But still.

       Also fortunately, there was a Gristede’s right on that block. While my husband brought the food upstairs to Aidan’s apartment, I dashed into this supermarket, which like any store in NYC is obscenely overpriced but was at least well-stocked with Passover foods.

       There I managed to procure two boxes of matzo (one regular, one whole wheat), a box of white Sabbath candles, paper plates for both dinner and dessert, and a box of dark chocolate-covered matzo to replace my own macaroons in the bag left behind.

Seder table at Aidan's.jpg

       We would have to make do with a regular plate in place of the Seder plate, and make more of a mess than I had hoped by using my son’s own bowls and wine glasses.

       I made the table look as nice as possible using his everyday placemats instead of a tablecloth. 

       The biggest problem was that we now had no Haggadahs. I searched for an online version that we could pass around the table, but no one seemed eager to use this. Besides, having celebrated Passover every year of our lives, we were perfectly able to recite the main prayers from memory, as well as to chant the Four Questions and sing Dayenu.”  

       Besides, I had to get a grip. For as the refrain to that song goes… if we’d only had a box of matzo to eat, but we were still able to be togetherit would have been enough.

       And as it turned out, leaving the Hagaddahs behind turned out to be a blessing in disguiseFor just as we finished eating, I learned that Allegra’s plane was about to arrive an hour early. Had we read more prayers, we never would have made it on time.

Allegra and Dad at Newark airport.JPG

       The moment I spied her emerging from the baggage claim at last, I began screaming so uncontrollably that I imagine passersby were tempted to call SecurityOmaybe just the paramedics.

       By the time we got home, it was nearly 1 a.m. The rest of our family and friends arrived the next afternoon. Good thing that I’d planned ahead and already cleaned the house, set the table, and cooked almost the entire meal before I had left the day before.

Passove rseder 2015.jpg

      In fact, in all the years that I have been preparing that mother of a meal, this was the first time that this nice Jewish mom had been relaxed, ready, and able to sit down and visit with my family when they arrived, rather than being sequestered in the kitchen.       

     So whether or not my daughter continues to live halfway around the globe (yikes!!!), I intend to make this new routine as much a part of my Passover ritual as the set of silly masks we wear representing frogs, lice, wild beasts, hail, and the rest of the 10 plagues.

Passover with masks.jpg

       Although from now on, I am either serving at home or we are going out. That’s that.

      The morning after, although everyone was still stuffed with brisket (or “meatless brisket”), I got up early and made a huge mess of matzo brei (fried matzo) for breakfast.

      Then, following a brisk walk, everyone left after we’d eaten some matzo pizza for lunch.

      Over the next few days, I got to enjoy Allegra’s company round the clock. What a thrill it was having her home, even if we spent most of our time doing mundane things like going to the mall, walking the dog, and lying on the couch watching "Married at First Sight" and other criminally bad American TV.

Kaitlin and Allegra in apartment.jpg

       There is a huge part of me that wishes she would just move back home so that we could continue frittering away our time doing those things together for the rest of my life.

       But she is 25, and she has her own life. And so a few days later – as soon as she had recovered sufficiently from severe jet lag to rejoin the human race – I put her on a train bound for New York, where she was soon happily reunited with Aidan and Kaitlin.

       And perhaps the leftover meatless brisket.   

Pattie with Passover under control.jpg

       It nearly broke my heart to see her leave so soon. But it was time to let her go. We’ll see her again before she returns to Hong Kong. Besides, as any nice Jewish mom knowsjust as there is no meal more challenging to serve than a Passover Seder. there is only one thing that can make you even happier than being with your children. And that is doing whatever it takes to make your children happy.

5:08 pm 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Passover table set.jpg

 A Word From the Weiss

 

   Last week, I posted something on Facebook that seemed to spark more interest than almost anything I have ever put up on social media before: a picture of my Passover table… already set.

       “Am I looking forward to having my whole family home for Passover?” I wrote. “Let’s put it this way… It’s 10 days away and I have already set the table.”

       This prompted not only dozens of likes, but a flurry of comments hotter than a spoonful of fresh-grated horseradish, ranging from “Lovely but maybe a little premature” to “Do you have time to come over? I need HELP!”).

       The last of these was offered by an old childhood friend named Elyse who grew up to become a rabbi, to which I responded, “If YOU need help, then G-d help us all!”

       As for my making it look like I was uber-organized, the truth was that I simply could not wait until my daughter came back to visit for a few weeks after spending the past nine months in Hong Kong.

       As it turned out, though, I would have to.

       The other truth of the situation was that I am no Jewish Martha Stewart, and I am certainly no Donna Reed. As much effort as it takes to prepare the Passover meal from scratch – and I do make everything but the gefilte fish and macaroons from scratch – people who know me know that for me, the most challenging part of the entire Pesach enterprise is making my normally cluttered house presentable enough to receive guests.

       I don’t dare aim to make it what normal people might actually classify as “clean.” I’m afraid that we Jews ran out of such miracles following the parting of the Red Sea.

       Part of the problem is that my husband and I are both what you might call pack rats, if you were being charitable. And if you were being honest, you would just say slobs.

       Some people may think that I never clean, but the exact opposite is true. Even though we have a cleaning lady who comes over once a week, it feels to me like I am still always cleaning up myself, if only to keep on top of the accumulation of clutter.

       But this often amounts to merely moving the various mountains of clutter around. Every time someone suddenly pops over, we take a few piles of stuff from the living room and transfer them to the dining room table. This works reasonably well, since we are very busy people and don’t entertain for dinner all that much (in part because we are very busy people, and in part because we are pack rats… or should I just say slobs?).

       Whatever the case, until last week we had not been able to see the top of our dining room table since Thanksgiving. And this began to cause me serious concern.

       It wasn’t just that my entire family was expected to arrive this Friday for the first night of Passover. The problem was that my daughter Allegra was flying in late on the previous Wednesday night from Hong Kong and I planned to pick her up at the airport in Newark, NJ, about three hours away from my home in Connecticut.

       We intended to stay overnight in a hotel, and as long as we were going to be near New York City, I wanted to drive my son Aidan and his girlfriend Kaitlin home with us for Passover. They were unable to leave until after 6 p.m. on Thursday, though, meaning that I would arrive home late Thursday night and have to serve a Seder meal the next day.

       The only way that I could possibly pull this feat off was to do as much preparation in advance as possible. So I began thinking of all the things that I could do in advance.

Brisket I made.jpg

       Of course, brisket always tastes better the second day, or so they say. But I am not one of those people who make food ahead of time and freeze it. To me, the freezer is just a pit stop on the way to the garbage can. So I couldn’t make that too much in advance.

       

Carrots tsimmes I made.jpg

As for the rest of the meal, I will make the chicken soup a day or two ahead of time, but I prefer to make the matzo balls just before we sit down to dinner, and the carrot tsimmes, steamed asparagus, and other vegetables while everyone is eating the matzo ball soup.   

       And then the answer came to me in a flash of inspiration: There was one thing I could do already. I could set the table.

       This seemed particularly prudent in view of the fact that there are things you use for Passover and only for Passover, and then you put them away and have to remember where they are a whole year later. I’m not just talking about the Haggadahs – the special prayer books containing the Four Questions, the story of the Exodus, and all of the various and sundry prayers we recite as we break matzo instead of bread.

Seder plate.JPG

       There is also the silver Seder plate that my son brought us back from Israel; the silver chalice from my daughter’s bat mitzvah that we always use as the cup for Elijah; a square ceramic dish that we pile with squares of matzo; and a set of silly masks I own representing the 10 plagues, from locusts, boils, and frogs to the slaying of the firstborn.

Passover plague masks.JPG

       BesidesI want the table to look not just festive, but truly elegant, so I always use only our finest things, from my mother-in-law’s Sterling silver flatware to our good china, the hand-blown wine glasses, and some French cloth napkins clasped with napkin rings.

       After I had finished clearing the dining room table (a heroic effort itself) and arranged all of these items painstakingly upon it, I stepped back and admired my handiwork. And yes, felt like it warranted a photo, which I dared to post, not realizing that this would provoke an onslaught of comments, both complimentary and otherwise.

       (One friend went so far as to express concern that the table settings would get dusty sitting there for 10 days, leading me to point out that I had placed the glasses and goblets upside down and covered all of the dishes with paper plates just to prevent this.)

       Still, I had this sense of satisfaction that, even if I am not the Jewish Rachael Ray (I am way too long in the tooth, and besides, that title is already taken by Jamie Geller), I was organized and all ready for my guests, other than having to still cook all of the food.

       But as I am fond of saying and I find out much too often, the best-laid plans of mice and moms often go astray.

       We began weeks ago counting down the days until Allegra would arrive on April 1. But two nights before her departure, she wrote to say that things were already going wrong.

       Very wrong.

JP and Allegra in rugby jerseys.jpg

       She had been nursing a cold for the past week, yet this had not discouraged her from spending the entire weekend out with her boyfriend JP at a big international rugby tournament, to which they had worn vibrant matching his and hers rugby jerseys.

        She’d seemed in particularly good spirits during this eventno doubt in no small pardue to all the spirits they imbibed both during the matches and at the after parties. But on Monday morning she had woken up before dawn feeling ill and in serious pain.

       A doctor took one look in her ear and nearly howled. She had a serious middle ear infection, she was told, and shouldn’t fly for at least two or three days.

       Her flight was scheduled for the very next day. Now what was she going to do?

       I may not be an actual doctor, but I play one on the Internet. That is, as most nice Jewish moms, I am extremely adept at diagnosing symptoms and uncovering horror stories by Googling every ailment I hear about. And in this case, I didn’t need to look far.

       I typed in “Flying with a middle ear infection and uncovered a host of horrific tales, ranging from people who had been in excruciating pain during flights to those who had suffered ruptured ear drums and temporary or even permanent, irreparable hearing loss.

       Allegra, as regular readers of this space must know by now, is a professional jazz singer. About the last thing she needed to do was jeopardize her sense of hearing.

       So I urged her to call the airline ASAP and see if she could get onto a flight a day later instead. But after waiting indefinitely on hold and repeatedly getting disconnected, she wrote me that, having been awake half the night, she was beginning to fall asleep.

       Then, apparently, she did.

       Hong Kong is 12 hours ahead of us. I stayed up as late as I could, hoping to still hear from her, then eventually gave up, but deliberately left my cell phone on just in case. So I can hardly blame her for waking me up when she texted at 2:47 a.m.

       She had woken up and finally gotten through to the airline. They’d said that there were no flights available the following day, which was Thursday, but that they would let her have the last seat left on their Friday flight, which arrived in Newark at 9:40 p.m.

       This might sound like very good news, but it was not good news to me.

Joel at Passover.jpg

       Friday night was the first night of Passover, and my brother and sister-in-law were driving all the way up from Long Island for dinner, which would begin at around 6 p.m. So Allegra would miss our annual family Seder (which was the main purpose of her flying all the way from Hong Kong). Plus, how the heck would we get her in Newark?

       Would my husband have to miss the Seder in order to drive down and pick her up?

       Would I be the sacrificial lamb instead, and if so, then who would serve the meal?

       There was the remote possibility that I could hire a driver at this late date to pick her up, but this would be extremely pricey, not to mention the fact that Friday was not only Passover but also Good Friday, and finding a car service at this point was unlikely at best. Besides, I wanted to greet her at the airport with open arms and a Welcome Home sign. How could we let her endure a grueling 16-hour flight and be met by a total stranger?

My Welcome Home Allegra sign.jpg

       I was so anxious about the situation that I was up for most of the rest of the night.

       I must have drifted off eventually, though, because I woke up late the next morning to a call from my brother.

        News travels fast, especially when you put it on Facebook. My brother doesn’t go in for social media, but his wife does, and Allegra had already posted the gory details of her dilemma on FB.

        He was calling to express his own concern and ask what we intended to do now.

       I told him that during my hours of insomnia I had managed to check the airline’s schedule and learn that there was an available flight from Hong Kong to New York on Thursday that arrived at JFK instead of Newark. I intended to call Cathay Pacific and use my nice Jewish mom’s charm, or simply beg, to persuade them to put her on that.

       My brother, who lives only a short drive from JFK, readily offered to pick Allegra up from there whenever she might arrive. But he didn’t hesitate to voice his own serious misgivings about rushing to get her airborne until she’d had sufficient time to recover.

       She already had a seat for Friday. Wouldn’t it be more sensible to wait until then?

        I couldn’t help agreeing with him and appreciated his being so concerned about her welfare. But I still couldn’t come up with a solution to our dilemma. Unless…

       “I hate to ask,” I ventured hesitantly, “but is there any way that you could possibly switch your plans and come to us for a Seder on Saturday night instead?”

       I knew that my brother and sister-in-law were expected at a good friend’s house on the second night of Pesach, and it would be rude to cancel out at this point. But my brother didn’t even skip a beat.

       “Of course!” he replied without reservation.

       He went on to explain that he was no longer going to that friend’s house on Saturday night. He was being hosted by some other old childhood friends instead, but these people were having a cast of thousands -- well, dozens at least -- so he and his wife would not be missed.

       Oh! And suddenly all of my anxiety flew out the window. All of our problems were solved in one fell swoop. My heart grew lighter than the fluffiest matzo ball imaginable.

Matzah ball soup I made.JPG

       That meant the whole family would be together for the holiday as planned, after all. No one would have to miss being at the family Seder, least of all poor, homesick Allegra. And surely after three days on an antibiotic, she would be well enough to fly.

       The first night of Passover might not be quite the celebration that we had planned. But as long as we were going down to the city, we agreed to have a scaled-back Seder at Aidan and Kaitlin’s apartment before going to the airport. I would simply transport a meal down to them, including a box of matzo, some homemade matzo ball soup, all the items on the seder plate, and of course a bottle of Manischewitz Concord Grape.

       After which, instead of sitting around watching the kids search for the affikomen, my husband and I will head to the airport.

        It may not be what we normally do on the first night of Pesach, but what the heck. What is it that we say every year when the youngest among us asks The Four Questions -- Ma nishtana ha layla hazeh micol halaylot?“ Why is this night different from all other nights?” Well, this year, that night will indeed be different. With one key exception. It will still be among the happiest nights of the year. Well, my year, anyway.

Allegra and Harlan in Newark.JPG       Instead of just serving gefilte fish smothered in horseradish, though, I will be the one at Newark Liberty International Airport holding the goofy Welcome Home sign.

        My daughter will be the one looking jet-lagged but happy and hungry for matzo ball soup.

        And at the first sight of her face, my husband and I will be the ones screaming our heads off, loudly enough to be heard all the way from New Jersey to kingdom come.

       By the time you read this, she may already have landed safely, zei gezunt!

       We will then arrive home so late that night that I will have little time to prepare on Saturday before the rest of my guests arrive.

       Good thing that I already set the table.  

 

2:57 pm 

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That's me. The redhead on the right. But that is NOT my baby.

     No, sir, that's not my baby. How could any mother smile beatifically while her own child wailed? Never mind that neither of my offspring ever cried so plaintively, as far as I recall (not while I was there to nurture them through their every perceptible need... although my son still complains that I often dressed him in garish and girlish color schemes, scarring him FOR LIFE).
     Besides, I'm distinctly beyond prime delivery age ("Kitchen's closed!" as my mother might say), and my kids had departed the diaper stage by the dawn of the Clinton Administration. Now in their 20s, both are currently living on their own, in not-too-distant cities, although each manages to phone me daily. In fact, to be exact, several times a day, then sometimes text me, too. (That may sound excessive, and emotionally regressive, but I subscribe to the Jewish mother's creed when it comes to conversing with kinder: Too much is never enough.)
     Two demanding decades spent raising two kids who are kind, highly productive and multi-talented, who generally wear clean underwear (as far as I can tell), and who by all visible signs don't detest me are my main credentials for daring to dole out advice in the motherhood department.
     Presenting myself as an authority on all matters Jewish may be trickier to justify.
     Yes, I was raised Jewish and am biologically an unadulterated, undisputable, purebred Yiddisheh mama. I'm known for making a melt-in-your-mouth brisket, not to mention the world's airiest matzah balls this side of Brooklyn. My longtime avocation is writing lyrics for Purim shpiels based on popular Broadway productions, from "South Pers-cific" to "The Zion Queen." Then again, I'm no rabbi or Talmudic scholar. I can't even sing "Hatikvah" or recite the Birkat Hamazon. Raised resoundingly Reform, I don't keep kosher, can barely curse in Yiddish, and haven't set foot in Israel since I was a zaftig teen.
     Even so, as a longtime writer and ever-active mother, I think I have something to say about being Jewish and a mom in these manic and maternally challenging times. I hope something I say means something to you. Welcome to my nice Jewish world!   
    
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LEVYS! MEET THE LEVYS! WE'RE A MODERN JEWISH FAMILY...
In coming weeks, I will continue posting more personal observations, rants, and even recipes (Jewish and otherwise). So keep reading, come back often, and please tell all of your friends, Facebook buddies, and everyone else you know that NiceJewishMom.com is THE BOMB!
                                                                                           
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The family that eats together (and maybe even Tweets together): That's my son Aidan, me, my daughter Allegra, and Harlan, my husband for more than 26 years, all out for Sunday brunch on a nice summer weekend in New York.

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