Home for the holidays


Fran Ostendorf, EditorSomehow, throughout the years, our house has become the gathering place for my extended family. Nobody else actually lives in this area. But they all end up at my door.

We started out small … My siblings for the High Holy Days when they were young, unaffiliated and craved family. They lived closer to me than to our parents. Gradually, more family members wanted in on the fun. Soon, even my parents were making the trip. And because gathering means a schlep on everyone’s part, the crowd settles in for a nice long visit.

For Thanksgiving, that means a full house, beginning on Tuesday or Wednesday before the holiday until Sunday and sometimes Monday after. Feeding and entertaining is a challenge, but everybody chips in. And, thankfully, dinners out have become a tradition.

Pesach is a whole other story.

This holiday, by definition, is much more labor-intensive. And eating out (or bringing in food) is often just not an option.  So the thought of my family arriving for the first Seder and staying a couple of days was pretty daunting at first. But it’s been happening since my kids were young, and now I look forward to the family reunion.

My sister usually arrives early to help. We both love to cook, and we enjoy cooking together. It’s bonding time. Through the years, everyone has learned to prepare all the traditional foods in my kitchen. My sister specializes in fancy vegetable dishes. My mother arrives and makes the matzah balls. And like all other holidays, there are expectations and menu items that can’t be changed. Feel free to add to the menu. But forget about taking away. It wouldn’t be a traditional Seder without…

But this year, things at my house are going to be different. Family members are a bit more scattered than usual. Which means there are those complicated travel plans. So instead of the usual large, multi-day gathering, we are anticipating a small Seder.

And the biggest change of all. The younger family members have volunteered to play a bigger role. This is quite a change and will take some getting used to. Will they be able to handle it? Will they really clean up? Am I just being a paranoid mother? Perhaps I’m a bit of a control freak?

We are told that the purpose of parenting is to instill skills in our children so that they can leave the house and lead meaningful, purposeful lives. And support themselves, too. That’s a pretty tall order. So I’m going to step back and allow those volunteers to take over this year. I know they’ll be practicing life skills. If anyone asks for advice I’ll give it. And I’ll try not to criticize, not even silently.

Maybe, just maybe, another nice holiday tradition will result.