A determined robin is singing outside, the notes coming through the windows that look out on another gray day.  “April is the cruelest month,” has come to mind often in the last 24 hours.  I’d envisioned these few days off around Passover as sunny and warm, days in the yard gardening, sitting in the sun drinking coffee, gathering with friends for a relaxed Passover celebration.

I woke up to a churning gut and head yesterday, Erev Pesach, the day before the beginning of Passover at sundown.  It was cloudy and cold and windy, making work outside uncomfortable.  With cooking to do for the seder last night, I turned to inside work and tried to focus my attention on making recipes out of Joyce Goldstein’s Cucina Ebraica, a wonderful collection of Italian Jewish recipes.

But the dozens of wheels floating in the air above my head (many thanks to David for this right-on image) just keep whirring, nothing touching down and able to get traction.  When I finally sat down to have some lunch, I found tears more than anything else coming up, and when I looked behind the churning and preoccupation that I was somehow “dithering away” this precious time off, I found grief.  As I often do when I look behind whatever is bothering me.

There, as soon as I recognized it, were all the years of Passover seders with Eric, and the five Passovers he’s missed since he died.  Grief is so sneaky and unpredicable — abating for months at a time, anniversaries of numerous events going by smoothly one year, then slamming me with a “ball to the head” (and thanks to Adrienne for that right-on image) the next year.

Mostly yesterday I keep seeing Eric the last Passover he was alive.  He’d been diagnosed with the metastatic cancer by then, and we’d missed the family seder in Connecticut, and had no capacity for the big seder with friends we’d planned for that weekend.  Eric was just home from the hospital on Saturday, and we had a small seder — Eric, Adrienne and Matt, and Sam and Rachel, his then girlfriend, and me.  Eric sat at the head of the table and told stories about Passover, about the mitzvah of retelling the story every year of the Jew’s liberation from slavery in Egypt, in the same order, “seder” in Hebrew.

It was one of the last times Eric was up at the table, eating with us.  His illness was vicious and swift.  The next year his mother and I skipped Passover all together, unable to imagine the holiday without him,

Now I’m trying to create new traditions, and now there’s a grandson who’ll soon be old enough to start learning Passover stories.  Last night the seder with friends was lovely — a lively reading of the haggadah, the Passover story, friendly discussions and reconnections, delicious food.  Today I’ll go out in the grey and pull the gardening wheel out of the sky and force it onto the ground, getting some traction with earth and compost and the first seeds breaking through the soil.

Tonight David and I have decided to read each other poems as our own, second night seder.  Folding up one set of traditions, we’re unfolding new ones.

I think I’ll read the begining of T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.”

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

Image courtesy of

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