A Holiday Dinner

Monday Morning Musings:

I often wonder what I would do to survive, to escape

it’s the story of Passover, after all.

the story of a group of enslaved people who escape

(with the help of a few miracles)

and of people all over the world in the past and present.

My grandparents left a repressive land,

pogroms and restrictions,

coming here where they could prosper

they met and married.

Both sets of grandparents—love matches.

They worked hard through the Great Depression

and WWII

making certain that their children were educated.

Some people don’t want to think about

slavery in this country.

They want to visit historic sites

without a reminder that slave labor kept the homes and farms running.

But we can acknowledge the achievements

and the faults of historic figures.

I listen to Annette Gordon-Reed and

Peter S. Onuf discuss Jefferson’s complicated

moral geography—

people and situations are seldom simple

black or white–

and still the world has slavery,

people forced to work with little sleep or food,

beaten if they disobey,

women kept as sex slaves,

a young woman, now a college student here,

who escaped from the

Boko Haram:

“And I say to one of my friends that I’m going to jump out of the truck. I would rather die and my parents will see my body and bury it than to go with the Boko Haram.”

I wonder if I would have had the courage to jump from a truck and run.

I read Those Who Save Us, a novel by Jenna Blum,

and I wonder—

what I would do in war time to survive?

It’s easy to judge others.

And so on Passover,

I think about slavery and escape,

of generations of people celebrating this story with words and foods,

celebrating in basements,

in wealthy homes,

in concentration camps,

We sit around the table(s)—reading from our homemade “Haggadah,”

going through some of the Seder steps, mixed with family lore,

“the spirit of roast beef.”

We read our parts in our Passover play,

and laugh,

this year, the play includes “Pharaoh Trump,

and rap songs.

We eat the food that I spent days cooking–

chicken soup, vegetable broth, knaidlach made the way my mom taught me

with separated eggs,

no recipe of course,

done by feel,

done with love,

but they are light. No sinkers here!

Matzo balls that float,

and don’t land with a heavy thud in your stomach.

Gefilte fish with horseradish

to clear away those spring allergy symptoms

Oh—that’s not what it symbolizes?

We eat my sister’s charoset,

the mixture of fruit and nuts that symbolizes the mortar or mud used to make the bricks in

the Exodus story.

The meat eaters consume brisket and turkey breast with delight.

Those who don’t eat meat, enjoy the roasted sweet potatoes and salad of spring greens.

Many glasses of wine. No Manischewitz!

For dessert, flourless chocolate cake,

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And my daughter’s cheesecake, made with a crust of chocolate almond macaroons.

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And coffee meringues with chocolate chips

And lemon-almond macaroons

My daughter, believing she is addressing a lack in my education,

brings Fireball whiskey for me to do my first shot ever-

It’s a group activity—with dancing.

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I really do dance in my kitchen.

 

I realize suddenly that this is the first holiday in years

where all of my siblings

are here together,

and both of my daughters with their spouses.

My mom is still here, too.

I feel love.

I feel content.

OK. I feel a bit tired

by the time it ends.

But happiness, too.

And love.

 

Recipes for the Flourless Chocolate Cake (to which I add 1 Tbsp. espresso powder and 1 tsp. vanilla, and bake for one hour at 325 degrees) and the recipe for the coffee meringues were in this post from last year. https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/a-passover-legacy/

Rough Winds of May

Monday Morning Musings

“Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May.”
William Shakespeare, “Sonnet 18”

(Full text here.)

It’s been a week of horror and hope; a week of unforeseen occurrences and unexpected miracles. Rough winds have shaken the darling buds of May.

In Nepal, the death toll from last week’s earthquake has climbed to over 7,000. Thousands more are injured or unaccounted for. The death toll will no doubt rise, as people succumb to their injuries and diseases spread through contaminated food and water in makeshift camps. (BBC news article.)

In the midst of the tragedy, there have been all too few briefs glimpses of hope. A 5-month old baby pulled from the rubble after 22 hours. And a 101-year old man was rescued a week after the earthquake. It is unlikely now over a week after the tragedy that survivors will be found buried under rubble, although rescue attempts continue. Worldwide support is still needed. Rebuilding Nepal is going take time and money.

In other news, some of the women captured by Boko Haram were rescued. Survivors have told of the horrors they’ve experienced, the abuse and the deaths from malnutrition. So far, it does not appear that any of the Chibok schoolgirls who were abducted last year were among the rescued women. But the world rejoices that some of these women have been rescued. Horror and hope.

As the weather gets warmer, people flock outside to celebrate–and to protest. Here in the US, the nation watched the ignition of rage and flames in Baltimore, following the death of Freddie Gray, now ruled a homicide. Six police officers have been charged. For days, Baltimore was under a curfew, which has now been lifted.

For many, the protests, riots, and rage in Baltimore brought back memories of the 1960s. But May has often been a time of protests. May Day is designated International Workers’ Day. In the US, this appellation goes back to May 1, 1886, when workers sought an 8-hour working day, and over 300,000 workers across the country walked off their jobs. Chicago was the center of this movement. The strike started off peacefully, but workers continued to strike, and by May 3, almost 100, 000 Chicago workers had joined the strike. At the McCormick Reaper Works, violence broke out between armed Pinkerton guards and police and steelworkers who had been locked out. Tensions there had been escalating for 6 months. Police beat workers who retaliated by throwing rocks. Police fired and killed at least 2 workers. The next day, a rally was held at Haymarket Square. Once again, violence broke out, after detectives accused the speakers of using inflammatory speech and prevailed upon police to go after them. Later the mayor testified that the speakers had used no incendiary language. Someone set off a bomb—it is not known who it was. Some believe it could have been an agent provocateur who worked for the police. Police then fired into the crowd. Civilians and police officers died, and many more were injured. Eight anarchists were arrested, tried, and later hanged. Six years afterwards, the governor pardoned some of the organizers and publicly criticized the judge for his mockery of justice in the trial that convicted them. (This is a really brief summary. There’s a nice digital narrative with photos here.

Older than May protests, however, are traditions of May celebrations: Beltane, fertility festivals—the day to bring in the flowers, to go “a-maying, dance around a Maypole, and crown a May Queen. Bryn Mawr College has a May Day celebration every year. (I know because one of my daughters was an undergraduate there.)

Come, let us go while we are in our prime ;
And take the harmless folly of the time.
We shall grow old apace, and die
Before we know our liberty.
Our life is short, and our days run
As fast away as does the sun ;
And, as a vapour or a drop of rain
Once lost, can ne’er be found again,
So when or you or I are made
A fable, song, or fleeting shade,
All love, all liking, all delight
Lies drowned with us in endless night.
Then while time serves, and we are but decaying,
Come, my Corinna, come, let’s go a-Maying.

Robert Herrick, last stanza of “Corinna’s Going A-Maying”

Full text illustrated here with “Village Scene with Dance Around the May Pole.”
Pieter Brueghel, the Elder, 1634.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674) is best known for his carpe diem poems. (Is that a thing? I’m going to say it is.) In another poem, perhaps his most famous, he offered this advice (to virgins) to “gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” However, Herrick was a clergyman who lost his post during the English Civil War, but Charles II restored him to his position during the Restoration. Herrick also wrote religious poems. Perhaps he saw life from several perspectives—the beauty and rhythms of the rural areas, religious beliefs, the excesses and turmoil of war and the effect it has on a society, and the various ups and downs of life. He never married, and some believe the women he wrote of existed only in his imagination. Perhaps he imagined his life going a different way. In his 83 years he must have seen and experienced many changes. Nevertheless, there is truth—and value—to the idea that people should not postpone living and enjoying life because we might never know what will happen. At the same time, most people have friends, family, and coworkers–communities that depend upon us. So help others, help yourself, stand up against injustice, and be a good citizen of the world, but be moved by miracles, and take some time, if you can, to enjoy the flowers and life itself. Gather ye rosebuds and stop to smell them. Come, though rough winds blow, let’s go a-Maying.