It turns out I haven't left my house since I came back from shopping on Tuesday.
And thank God for Hornblower. I spent the entire three day holiday, when I wasn't having four hour s'dorim or preparing Shabbat dinner, reading Hornblower novels.
By Wednesday afternoon, all was done. The house was in company shape, the chometz long gone, the food all prepared and waiting. My one local guest that night dropped off a gooey non-gebrokts apricot mocha cake and then called to tell me that she was going to arrive at 7:17 - in time light candles. She has a cat and didn't feel comfortable lighting at home. Not really a problem - I got dressed a little sooner and put out a couple of tea lights in crystal holders next to my own candlesticks. We set the lights - I set the bedroom timer so the lights would go out at 12:15AM instead of 11:15 - and set the table using the white woolen tablecloth from Israel that we bought at an Israeli fair soon after we purchased the table. It's supposed to be washable. I covered it with a disposable clear plastic tablecover anyway. Not as pretty, but given all the red wine, necessary.
My Pesach meat set is only service for four, and anyway who wants to wash dishes at midnight? So. The cutlery was all "real" stainless, and we use cut glass wine cups, but we also use disposable plates and bowls. This is because it's easy enough to wash real cutlery, and it's much nicer than plasticware, while it doesn't really matter about the plates. I got pretty paper plates. The table, with the winecups on small white paper plates centered on the dinner plates, looked lovely, especially with the pretty glass seder plate Jonathan's sister gave us for a wedding present and the embroidered matzah covers. We had two because one of our guests is on Atkins and she found lowish carb matzot and brought them with her, so she needed her own cover. And, in Jonathan's family tradition, everyone had the same haggadah and translation. We use the ArtScroll.
We had three guests that night - two friends from the science fiction fannish community and a woman from our synagogue - the one with the candles and the cake. Because Jonathan didn't go to shul that night and all our guests arrived a bit early, we started bang on time, at 8:17.
It all went fairly well. I was exhausted, of course, but managed to keep awake, while Jonathan and our male guest (who is very intelligent, if not religious, and so asked good questions) had discussions all through the telling, with Jonathan looking things up in his pile of haggadot - I think he had eight or ten piled up next to him. Yes, the text is all the same, but the commentaries are all different. The haggadah we had for the table was commentaryfree.
Haggadah: booklet with the text of the seder service. We use the traditional service.
Rebecca was youngest, so she read the Four Questions. We used Jonathan's family custom of cucumber for the karpas, the green vegetable, but Marc and otherdeb decided they wanted parsley. I knew from previous years that Marc didn't like cucumber, so that was fine, and I had the parsley available. We went around the table, reading our sections in English, although Jonathan insisted on doing freehand translation, and sang the traditional songs, or at least the choruses with Jonathan singing the rest. It helps to have an amateur cantor in the house.
Dinner that night was gefilte fish, soup with matzah balls (depth charges, unfortunately), roast turkey, farfel stuffing, asparagus and balsamic vinegar and steamed carrots. The turkey wasn't done. The breast was *beautiful*, but the dark meat was *not*. So, we all had breast meat. And we had Rebecca's gooey cake for dessert. We finished eating about 11PM with the afikomen (the final piece of matzah. If there are children, games are played - someone hides it or steals it and it is produced for a suitable bribe or gift because without it the seder doesn't end. This is to keep the kids awake and interested. Since there were no kids, we just put it under the matzah plate.)
An hour later, we were done, and our guests were leaving. We did offer Rebecca a place to stay for the night, given how far she lives, but she said she'd be fine walking home.
And the next day, we *slept*. I mean, I woke up at nine, was awake for a few hours, and then slept from twelve to four. We should have had a formal meal, but we just noshed. There wasn't much else to do because I'm pretty strict about not doing anything on yom tov for the following day. All my food was cooked and I couldn't even take anything out to bring it to room temperature.
So. I told my mother and brother that we were going to start at about 8:15-8:30, depending on when Jonathan and our guests for the evening would come back from synagogue. I was pretty firm about this, because a couple of years ago, they arrived two hours early, just when I was contemplating two hours of relaxing before I had to be Hostess. This is because the night before they went to my mother-in-law's for the first seder, and she insists on starting them early. Too early. Because she can't stand the idea of a late seder even if it means that, by Orthodox interpretation, her s'dorim don't count. Because they have to start after full dark. So, her seder was 6:00.
This is why we try not to spend Pesach with them, except Jonathan *likes* spending Pesach with them. You can't believe the tension.
At 7:15, while I'm still in my nightgown, and just thinking about getting dressed, the doorbell rings. I can't use the intercom, of course, and I know the door is locked. Jonathan's in synagogue. I pull on my robe and stick my hair in a snood and, boiling mad, I opened the door and make them come in and come upstairs. My brother gets all insulted because *he* thought I said 6:15 and they were worried they were late and they'd looked up sunset time and...
I overreacted, I know. But I'd told him and told her and told them both several times the time, and they didn't *listen*. Because I didn't want the same thing happening as before. So. *I* end up apologizing for the crime of not being listened to, and make them coffee and tea and refill the hot water urn, which means I have to make myself a cup of tea when it's finished so that I'm not preparing for the next day, and then I go and get dressed. And it's all very awkward until 8:17, when I can finally change the table cover and get things started for the seder. Jonathan and our guests Todd and Zev arrive at about 8:40, and we begin. I have to stop because in the bustle of getting the table and such all ready, I forgot to start the potatoes. Luckily, the kitchen is next to the dining room and I can hear everything as I frantically cut up potates and spice them and spray them with olive oil. And they were done by dinner time, so *good*.
Dinner that night was pot roast (mother-in-law's recipe), the potatoes, and steamed broccoli, plus the same starters as the night before. The potatoes were perfect, but the gravy for the meat was very salty, and Todd wanted nonred meat. I cut him a few slices of turkey breast - no problem. We started dinner at about 10:30 because we started late and had more things to say during the telling, so we ended at about 12:30AM, after the light in our bedroom went out. Todd, who is a judge, was still the youngest present, so he read the Four Questions. Zev is a delightful guest, but his presence meant that his marriage was over. :( This wasn't a surprise, but there has always been hope.
I slept Friday away as well, only really coming to life to make a kugel for Shabbat dinner - crushed whole wheat matzah soaked in hot water, sauted onions, mushrooms and celery, two eggs, a couple of ladles of chicken soup plus some schmaltz, all mixed together and baked, covered, at a low temp. Came out really nice. I recooked the turkey bottom, and that came out better. It was amazing - we started dinner as soon as Jonathan came home from synagogue, and finished an hour later. No guests, either. We were both asleep before the light went out.
And I slept today away, as well. I need to get out tomorrow. I really do.
However, and despite some minor mishaps, the first three days went just fine. I enjoyed the company and the food was mostly good and the seders went very well.
Next year, if not in Jerusalem, the Upper West Side.