There are so many ways in which last night was different from all other nights. We had a nice seder as always. Of the eighteen people present, four were Jewish, thirteen weren't, and Maggie was both.
I've been unable to light the memorial candle for Elena. I should have lit it when she died and let it burn for seven days. I don't know if it was that I couldn't, but, the fact is, I didn't.
But last night it was clear that Elena would be the big pink elephant in the room. We could pretend nothing was different and not bring her up, but we'd all be thinking of her.
We began, as always, with a screening of the Rugrats Passover. During the seder you don't really tell the complete story of Moses and the exodus. The seder is almost a meta-story. You talk about the rabbinical discussions of what is meant by the stories. You talk about how you should tell the story and explain the symbols to your children. You discuss the symbols of passover and you answer the four questions.
And so, before beginning the seder, I lit the yartzeit and explained why.
We began on page ten. My mother thumbed through the Hagaddah and announced, "we eat on page seventy-six". A night like other seder nights.
The four questions snuck up on me. I'd forgotten they come so early in the seder. I'd asked Maggie to read them again. Maggie who has always been my eldest child is now the youngest child at our table. This would have been the year that Elena read the four questions. Another milestone she never lived to see.
Truthfully and selfishly, it's another milestone she never lived for me to see.
"Why is this night different from all other nights?"
So many answers. So many of them center around the candle burning behind me. But I watch and listen to Maggie read. She reads powerfully and well. She doesn't just read the words. She understands them enough to sometimes rephrase them as she reads out loud. Maggie has read at our seder for years.
Last year Elena would not let us skip her as we went around the room reading a paragraph or two each. With the help of a grandparent she read twice just beaming at being able to be a part of this family tradition.
I love many things about passover. One of my favorite traditions is the reminder that we descend from slaves. While other cultures stress that their people were once kings, I love that we remember our time as slaves. I love the mixing of the apple and nut charoset with the freshly ground horseradish that we spread like mortar in a matzoh sandwich.
After Maggie read the four questions, Jill sang them in hebrew. That was a huge difference in this year's seder. There was much more singing this year. It's a silly thing, but music is one of the things that connects me most with Elena in a happy way. When I hear music and think of her, I smile. It helped make this night a bit different.