Ten years ago on Passover my brother Benjamin visited Gabriella and me in London. We prepared a Seder with our dear friends with all the kosher fixings from Golders Green in North London.
The following observation is an over-simplified, undocumented generalization of Jewish geography in London, which I believe to be true…enough. The Jews all live in North London. If they live outside of North London then they fall somewhere between unidentified and self-hating interspersed with ExPat Jews who try to find the in-between. Gabriella and I lived in Chelsea before we considered that it might be better to raise our unborn children up north with people who were actually happy to be Jewish, and we settled in Muswell Hill.
Seder that night was not in Muswell Hill but at our friends’ house just outside of of the city, and after that, recall is sketchy. My memory is faulty to the point of affliction in some way I’ve never investigated. Here is where I would insert a joke about meaning to get my memory checked, but I keep forgetting. And then after that, you wonder why you keep coming back to read this blog when I insist on making jokes like that. Well, I appreciate you all the more for sticking with me. In any event, my memories of that first Seder with our friends and my brother are like storyboard images that I can see in flashes – flashes that leave me completely happy and fulfilled and hopeful.
We are all chopping. There are three of us stationed in front of cutting boards preparing apples for charoset, celery for matzah stuffing and something else. I can’t see it. It’s too bright to see what our host is chopping. It’s late morning, and the sun is atypically bright for early spring in London. I am grateful for the beauty of the day and all there is to appreciate.
The table is set with all the Passover fixings. We can hardly see the table under the place settings and ritual accessories. I catch our host’s mother flipping through a Haggadah set on a dinner plate, and she nods with understanding and connection.
I excuse myself to go to the loo hoping not to miss anything. No one notices the slender package I slip up my shirtsleeve – a trick so many of us have perfected since the first day of womanhood. Minutes later I am sitting on the toilet listening to the mellifluous chatter and laughter hoping no one notices how long I’ve been gone. When I finally return to my place at the cutting board, Gabriella is head down over a carrot. I lean into her ear and whisper, “It’s positive.” She looks for confirmation in my face and I squeal with my eyes. Her smile is glorious, and it does not fade for the rest of the day.
We will not tell anyone for many weeks to come. It’s our first, and it has taken a very long time and many tries to get to this pregnancy. We are cautiously thrilled with our secret as we celebrate freedom and renewal with people we treasure.
To this day, ten years later, those flashes of memory still leave me completely happy and fulfilled and hopeful.