Nobody in the family’s been around much for this Spring Vacation season, so I’m not making my annual Passover Seder. Andy’s off at UCLA Theater School getting ready for his nude scene in The Devils. Jordan has two subjects remaining before he transfers to San Francisco State, so he’s busy studying his courses— Boundary Oak Golf Course and Diablo Creek Golf Course. Alan’s working hard to develop his start-up solar company, Eco Friendly Energy Company. In addition to scoring a contract to solarize a high school stadium—the first in the country— Alan’s now receiving multiple and enthusiastic calls like the woman who phoned and said, “I’m having a party. Can you guarantee the sun will shine?”
In truth, even if he wasn’t busy with the new company, Alan’s always been leery of holiday dinners ever since, years ago, we put on a Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people. The guests included Alan’s former boss and his proper wife, who was the leader of the local Women’s Christian Temperance Union. During dinner Alan had insisted that nine year old Andy show off his first collection of celebrity imitations. Andy eagerly stood up at the white linen-covered table and took a military stance, feet apart, hands on his hips.
Alan: “Andy’s going to show you all how he does Damon Wayans. You know, from the movie Major Payne that all the kids’ like? Go ahead, Andy, show how you do Major Payne.”
(Guests lean forward expectantly.)
Andy (thundering): “Now listen up! I’m Major Payne! Time to get out of bed, YOU ASSHOLES!”
It was all a misunderstanding, Alan claimed later. How could HE know Andy was going to utter those lines?
That “misunderstanding” is one reason I carefully weigh the guest list when I plan any holiday meal. I know, for example, that although a seder would automatically include my flight attendant sister Roberta, I’d never ask her current escort/boyfriend Eric, who’s been a close advisor to Dick Cheney. THE Dick Cheney.
During the year and a half Roberta’s dated Eric, they’ve ranted and bickered because of their mutual dislike for each other’s political leanings. Eric finally decided they should not talk politics at all, and that left a major vacuum.
“Eric doesn’t go to movies,” my sister told me, “and he only reads right-wing political books. So there’s nothing we can talk about.”
She sighed. “The only thing we have in common is, we both like lamb.”
Through Eric, my sister met Dick Cheney twice. Before the first meeting she worried what she would say to Cheney that allowed her self-expression without reflecting badly on Eric, who’d nervously avoided introducing them for more than a year. Roberta tried out different remarks, reciting them over and over to judge the possible effect. She was determined to make a statement that was true to her values without causing offense; a declaration that would hang in the air when she finished, weighty and persuasive, delivered with passion.
When she finally met Cheney at Casa Pacifica, the former Nixon Western White House in San Clemente, she had it down. Gracious and elegant, with a hint of fire in her eyes, she stepped forward, looked way down (he was shorter than she expected), shook his hand and said fervently, “Mr. Vice President, you look so much better in person than in your photographs!”
Eric’s anxiety hadn’t been so high since the time he brought Roberta to a large party peopled with his conservative, mostly Irish-Catholic Republican friends in Cape Cod to test whether she’d fit in.
“He was so worried they’d find out,” she told me later.
“You mean that he was dating a Jew?” I asked
“Oh no. That he was dating a Democrat.”
Eric would certainly be an interesting addition to the elaborate Passover Seders I’ve hosted, but—- his strong religious, political and cultural biases aside—- as a meat-and-potatoes guy he’d probably balk at trying ethnic seder food. Or he’d become impatient waiting an hour or more for the pre-dinner telling of the biblical Exodus-from-Egypt story.
I’ve often asked non-Jewish friends to participate in our seders which are, they tell me, fun and educational, but I’ve concluded that Eric wouldn’t be comfortable at a seder, primarily because, let’s face it, he’d be surrounded by left-leaning Democrats. What he’d refuse to believe is that they were leaning left because leaning is required on Passover, along with eating matzo and bitter herbs. It would be the first time in Eric’s life that, as a strong Catholic traditionalist, he’d have to curb his tongue because his left-leaning dinner guests were doing so for religious reasons.
Come to think of it, for that reason alone, I might put on a seder.