Tygerpen: Guess whos not coming to seder

I’m making a list, checking it twice, going to find out who’s naughty or nice, and not because it’s Christmas, but because it’s Passover, the Festival of Freedom and Folding Chairs, and I have to know whom to invite.

I can imagine what President Obama had to go through for tonight’s seder guest list. He got a begrub (Yiddish: “bawling out”) last year from different Jewish leaders and others who weren’t invited, but that didn’t bother him because he and Michelle said they had to limit the list to family, friends and aides.

I should be so lucky. My guests should be glad I’m having a seder, since fewer and fewer people seem to be hosting one, and when they do, the haggadah (often from the Internet) gets smaller and smaller. I do understand this, because when I was a child attending my grandfather’s seder, I wasn’t allowed to get up, wiggle in my chair or play with my coffee-and-wine-stained Maxwell House haggadah.

It’s better now that seders are viewed as more festive and designed for people and kids who have shpilkes (Yiddish: “ants in the pants”) after 20 minutes. Unless you’ve been off the planet, you know there are haggadahs like “The 30-Minute Seder” that include a stopwatch. I’m certain one called “The 30-Second Seder” is coming soon:

“Thanks for Wine, Thanks for Produce, Egypt Bad, Ten Plagues, We Left, Rabbis Explaining, Four Sons (wise, wicked, simple, clueless), Sing ‘Dayenu,’ Eat Matzah, Drink More Wine, Eat Salt-Watered Parsley, Horseradish, Aunt Manya’s Haroset, Really Eat, Corral People Who Haven’t Left, Drink More Wine, Open the Door, Close the Door, Drink More Wine, Try to Sing ‘Chad Gadya,’ Get Your Coat, Take Some Leftovers.”

I prefer seders that haven’t been abridged. But my main concern is whom to ask. 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 adviser to Dick Cheney. The Dick Cheney.

During the five years Roberta has 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.

Through Eric, my sister met Dick Cheney twice. Before the first meeting, she worried what she would say that allowed her self-expression without reflecting badly on Eric, who’d nervously avoided introducing them. Roberta 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 La 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 I’m told are 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 they were leaning left because leaning is required on Passover, along with eating matzah 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.

Trudi York Gardner
lives in Walnut Creek and can reached at [email protected] or via her blog, www.tygerpen.wordpress.com.