It figures that the moment I felt fully realized as a Jewish woman involved food. What was it that marked my transformation from confused Jewish girl to equally confused (but for different reasons) Jewish woman? A seder. The first seder I hosted for my parents in my home. Come to think of it, there was another Rubicon crossed that year—I finally got to sit at the grown-up table. I can’t help thinking that being over 30 with a little tyke of my own had something to do with it.
Why did that seder feel like such a rite of passage? After all, I’d thrown black-tie dinner parties that I’d catered myself (I’ve been diagnosed with chronic Martha Stewartitis). I think the exact moment of my transformation to Jewish grownup—or more specifically, Jewish mother (oy!), came before the festive meal, when my mother gave me a seder plate of my very own. It made me conscious of being a link in a chain stretching back through the generations.
I realized that being a grown-up isn’t just a matter of getting to sit a different table at the seder. It’s about taking on the responsibility to keep the chain unbroken. It’s about merging the traditions of my kids’ dad’s family (Sephardi charoset with dates, hazelnuts and coconut) with those of my own (Ashkenazi charoset with apples, walnuts and sickly sweet Manischewitz) to keep them all alive.
Sarah Darer Littman is the author of Confessions of a Closet Catholic (Dutton, 2005), about a Jewish girl who, inspired by her Catholic friend, gives up being Jewish for Lent, She is a columnist for the Greenwich (CT) Times as well as an occasional commentator for NPR.