Of legend and legacy

More than any other time of year, Passover is a time of retelling and reflection.

The story of the Exodus. Obvious. Required. The reflections on Passover seders past.

What did it smell like? Taste like? Feel like? To whom did you ask the four questions? Who asks those questions now?

As the youngest of my generation of cousins, I was the asker for a long long time. I was the youngest child’s youngest child. I then married the youngest child’s youngest child. (Being two years younger than he is, I found myself as the new “girlfriend” being asked to sing these questions to a room full of strangers. Awkward — but I digress.)

Our seder table has changed much in the last 16 years. We welcomed a son (who thankfully inherited his singing capabilities from his father’s side). The children of first cousins married. They were fruitful and multiplied. Our group included babies and bellies (b’sha’ah tovah). And so we sat, at this year’s seder table, with a gaggle of 1- to 4-year-olds. It was time to ask the questions. The gaggle shyly began (with support from their parental units) to sing the four questions. What commenced with some vigor petered out after … kulo matzah.

My heart began to race. My eyes darted nervously around the room. Then, before I realized it, I had joined in. And so had my husband. And our son. And my niece’s fiancée. In fact, it seemed that all of the eternally youngest children, those babies’ babies who had owned the question-asking obligation/privilege for so long, and for whom it was so ingrained, had jumped in to fill the void.

I looked around the room. I wondered if this moment would make it into our family’s Passover lore. So many stories of seders past. Each preserved in a personalized family haggadah (courtesy of cousin Susan). Would this moment make it to the annals of Glass Family legend?

From page 9: Every time someone at the seder asked what page we were on, cousin Jeff would reply, “Paganini.” (Page nine.) Cousin Jeff died in 2001. He is remembered well at this seder. His cheek bones are so noticeable on the stunning face of his daughter. My son and three of Jeff’s grandchildren all sport “J” names in his loving memory. From page 12: “Did you make them on seltzer” was an annual inquiry into the provenance of the matzah balls by Uncle Freddie z’l. (Uncle Freddie died right before I met my husband, but his memory is recalled with many a giggle each year when this line is recited.) It’s a cool thing, this family haggadah. Complete with a family tree, which is updated yearly. Fiancées are added in parenthesis (which are removed after marriage). Babies are nestled in under parents. It is a visual progression of life.

Legacy is a heavy thing to think about. Natural to do. A little scarier to do when you realize you likely have more Passover seders behind you than in front of you. What is it that I want people to say about me? To remember about me?

I’ve spent a lot of effort and care in cultivating that legacy for my children. About communicating my ethical will. About leading by example. I know that my recipes will live on. I hope our predilection for large holiday celebrations sticks.

These people, my loved ones, these memories, this is my opus. It is a work in progress. But if I’m taking stock, I’d say I’m satisfied with its direction.

About the Author
Lisa Harris Glass is the Chief Planning Officer of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey; and is a frequent lecturer to religious non-profits. She resides in Springfield, NJ.
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