Well, looks like neither Easter nor Passover will happen this year, and I’m fine with that. I’ve become very blasé about holidays. This is hard to fathom, somehow, since I grew up in a family that hit every holiday hard. Easter, for example, was celebrated three times, maybe four times if you count dinner, in a row at different relatives’ houses. We never did that doling out of holidays by relative thing that many families manage to do.
And since Retrogrouch and I don’t have kids and don’t have much interest in celebrating holidays with kids and all our friends are having kids, the gesture gets more hollow by the year. Eh. No biggie. I’d rather be out in the garden prepping food production this time of year anyway. That seems more of an escape from bondage, more of a celebration of rebirth, than hostessing to me. Praying with your feet, to paraphrase Rabbi Abraham Heschel, who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, Alabama. I pray with my trowel.
But that doesn’t mean my thoughts aren’t filled with holiday swag when the holidays roll around. In the grocery store, in particular, when one is bombarded with temptations. I think about my grandmother, the one who doesn’t cook, who would spend weeks each year finding the best, coolest candy for Easter baskets for my sister and me. I always keep my eye out, in her spirit, for weird and wondrous sugar bombs for my nephews, to send to them when I can. I rarely can time it like she did, but I have a more perverse sense of humor. Surely, my colleague who surprised me in line at Market of Choice while buying two IV bags of lurid red sugar blood at Halloween must have wondered what recipe I was dreaming up…
There was something very comforting in holidays, a temporal sureness. That’s the pleasure of a middle class upbringing: heteronormative, reproductive time. It’s hard to imagine there’s any other acceptable way when you grow up like that. A part of me is sad I’ll never transubstantiate those particular joys or cyclical comfort, but my freedom to garden instead of cook, write instead of wash the seder plate, browse the Easter candy baskets instead of buying, means I won’t model the treacherous, complex groove of reproductive time for a little girl like me who would one day be sad. This is not without its consequences, though. The knowledge I have of the holidays — all the domestic rituals and rites — is thus rendered “heavy with useless experience,” to turn dear Adrienne Rich on her head.
I’ve never liked the Easter message, and my husband says he doesn’t like Passover anymore, because it celebrates vengeance. “It would have been enough, dayenu,” he says. “But god needed more plagues, celebrated by drops of the blood of your enemy.” He wants a holiday of moderation, where “it is enough.” As much as this concept horrifies me and I profoundly disagree in my middle class sureness, acknowledging the carnivalesque need for celebrations of life, where excess is sometimes very appropriate and wonderful and even blessed, I see his point. “The knife edge of fact.” The sacrificial lamb.
It’s just never enough.