By Michael Jacobs / firstname.lastname@example.org
We were strangers in a strange land for Passover this year.
My younger son had a high school robotics competition. I wasn’t thrilled with his participating through the first day of Pesach, as well as Shabbat, and I won’t try to defend that decision. But once he was committed, the rest of the family was bound to follow to bring the seder to him and some of his Jewish teammates.
If only we’d had Moses to help work out the logistics.
No. 2 son made it to Knoxville with his team Wednesday, at least 48 hours before the seder. His part was simple: He just had to show up.
My wife spent the week cooking: brisket, chicken soup, charoset, mashed potatoes, vegetables, quinoa, salad, boiled eggs, flourless chocolate cake, the works. Somehow, she managed to drive up I-75 and I-40 late Thursday night with Sterno, chafing dishes and much of the food.
My fun began Friday. I had to pack up the kippot, candles and candlesticks, matzah and afikomen covers, and our mix of Maxwell House, Publix and Internet haggadot, along with the chicken soup, brisket, cakes, eggs and such forgotten kitchen items as the bottle opener. The dog went to the kennel, and I hit the liquor store to be sure we had enough kosher wine to carry three adults through two seders.
Then things got complicated. My task wasn’t merely to get myself, the brisket and the wine to a Knoxville hotel through the masses clogging the interstates for the holiday weekend (Passover, Easter and the start of spring break). I had to fetch No. 1 son at UGA first.
With soup sloshing and other food chilling in a cooler jammed into the hatchback, I was bound for Athens through the expected stalls, wrecks and ticketed speeders. In Athens, I added a college junior with the obligatory hamper of laundry to the load, and while he interviewed by phone for an internship in California, we wandered into the wilderness of the 230 miles separating one SEC campus from the other while I wondered whether anywhere was less than four hours from Knoxville.
We didn’t face any frogs or lice or cattle disease, and I resisted the urge to kill my firstborn. But the storms welcoming us to the Volunteer State did provide hail and early darkness. No sea threatened to drown us, but we faced downpours and a few flash-flood watches.
By the time we reached the hotel, my son and I agreed that the whole endeavor was one of the stupidest things we’d done. I suspect more than a few Hebrews thought the same thing on the shore of the Sea of Reeds 3,300 years ago.
After the seder brought order from the chaos and we rushed through a round of “Who Knows One?” to get the four high-schoolers back to their rooms for curfew, well, I was certain it was one of the stupidest things I had done, but it was also unforgettable and somehow worth all the drama and trauma. I think we captured the Pesach spirit.