Sunday, March 29, 2015

Happy Pesach!

What great news to open my entry to Listserve Lotter Winners' Circle on my birthday! (48)

I live near the Hague in a lovely old university town, but I grew up in California. Most years around this time of year my wife and I visit family in Maryland for what we call Camp Pesach. When I was younger, we'd celebrate Passover with my mother's parents, her three siblings, as many of our cousins in that part of the family who could make it (and as most lived on the east coast, this was really just an issue for my sister, my parents, and me). Last night over shabbat supper, my Aunt Karen recounted what was essentially my grandmother's dying wish, that we continue to gather as a family, and not slip away from one another. So each year, Bobe's four children, their spouses, her eight grandchildren and their spouses and children gather in a big house on Chesapeake Bay. It's 28 of us this, the 20th, year of Camp Pesach. (For a variety of reasons we're gathering a little early - we allow such concessions as we're gathering from two coasts, two continents, and three or four states now.)

Back in the early days of this celebration, my sister and I compiled a Haggadah (the book of prayers and stories and songs that make up the Passover seder) for the family in small ring binders so that we could add new material, family photos, and so forth. This year she asked me and my uncle Dana for poems to add. I gather that his runs to four pages, mine to 18 lines:

Wandering, we pitch our tent again,
Gathering, our clan, about the flames,
Reclining, kings and queens, before the feast.

Ancient histories and new,
Far loved ones and near,
Recount - It would have been enough,
Shankbone, orange, and charoset,
Blood and frogs and bitter herbs.
Who knows one, I know one little goat.

We drove a stake into the desert
(For we did these things,
our grandparents, our aunts and cousins,
Twenty generations back or twenty days.
All at once, all of us)
We poked a stick into the desert floor.

Taking root, a willow, branch and leaf,
An oak, a spreading chestnut,
Under which we spread our feast.
-=-=-=

And some recommendations:
I blog irregularly about politics and music on WordPress at JoeJots.
Music: In the moment, I'm listening to Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Hot Sevens which is some great early jazz.
Literature: I'm rereading James Baldwin's Go Tell It On The Mountain which is one of my favourite novels. If you enjoy horror fiction, I recommend Red Phone Box from Ghostwoods Books (disclaimer: I contributed a couple of its chapters).

May the springtime treat you all well.


Joe Silber
jsilber[AT]eml.cc
Leiden, The Netherlands

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