In the early morning, I layer yogurt, berries, granola and honey into a glass mug for my little guy. It’s his breakfast on the sixth day of Passover, when meager offerings beckon from our refrigerator and the idea of food has lost its novelty.
This holiday tries everyone’s patience, and we wonder why we yearn for simple things like pasta and bread. It’s just food. We eat often. Why the agony over prohibiting certain foods for a week? Why not see it as an opportunity for elevation?
My little guy picks at his food usually, leaving much on the plate. I’m full, he says, and the beanpole lankiness of him shows that it’s true. But today, his glass mug is empty by the time he finishes and I feel, as a mother, that my job has been done unusually well this morning.
It’s a quiet morning and the house is buzzing with people waking. We don’t speak much. There is little to say. We are all tired, and we’ve spent the prior night talking and singing and laughing and hugging.
In the morning, we share the silence.
There is a melancholy that falls like a curtain when I wake my little guy in his bottom bunk. He pulls the blanket up higher, whines that he doesn’t want to go to his father’s house this evening, that he doesn’t want to celebrate the seventh holiday-day of Passover, because for us it’s not as important as it is for his father.
He will miss school tomorrow on account of it. They all will. And none of them want to.
It’s over, they say. The Seders on the first two nights are rituals to anticipate eagerly, fun gatherings of people and stories and foods that we make only once a year.
But by now, the length of the holiday has run its course, we are done, we want to move on, to live our usual lives.
I lay the length of my body beside my little guy on the soft sheets and lean in for a kiss. I know, I say.
I want to be with you, he says. And this is a familiar refrain. He says it often.
I know, I say, thinking, I want to be with you, too.
But such is the way of a divorced family. There are built-in times when we must be apart, which means there are many opportunities to come back to one another, to appreciate in the absence how deep the love runs.
The other day, my daughter called me from school. I have such a small lunch, she says.
Oh! Are you hungry? Do you want me to bring something more for you to eat?
No, she replies. I’ll be fine. She pauses. I’m really missing you right now.
This morning, my daughter comes downstairs and peers into the Passover refrigerator with disgust.
There is nothing to eat, she says.
And in a way, she is right. The refrigerator fills to overflowing. I bake apples, roast chicken with vegetables, make matzoh balls and chicken soup from scratch.
There are hard-boiled eggs to mash with mayonnaise all week long, and on the counter stand sentry the boxes of matzah we chip away at this enduring week until the veil lifts and all is as it usually is.
I help my daughter mash the last two hard-boiled eggs into a small pink-striped bowl and mix with a heaping spoonful of mayonnaise. It would be better if I had crackers to go with it, she says, and I point to the matzah, which breaks into neat rectangles and can smear with anything of flavor.
She makes do. She eats what is before her. She sips water. Can we buy juice for this house? she asks.
It is the easy things, like that yogurt parfait, like a bottle of juice. A simple ask, a simple response. Yes, we can do that.
The oldest son eats the leftover matzah breakfast bake with raisins and brown sugar. Sweet and soft, reassuring, just like the French toast I make year-round.
This is one week of different, and we are all fine for it. It’s a week of different foods. Why, then, do we notice it so greatly? Why are we so discomfited by the difference in what is available to us?
But in the morning, when the sun rises pink on the horizon, beyond the hills of the golf course across from our house, it is the simple pleasures, a yogurt parfait made expressly for you, the assistance in making egg salad, a simple snuggle and kind understanding that yes, this is hard, this going back-and-forth, this constant changing.
We are all so well-adjusted, and sometimes, we ache for the luxury of being poorly adjusted, of wanting to cling to what is familiar.