Jennifer Burleigh

A Place at the Table

A Story of Intermarriage, Miscarriage & Matzoh 

The Passover invitations had already gone out when we lost the baby. Every year, since before we were married—and Bill did it long before I came along—we’ve hosted a seder for our friends, mostly half-and-half couples like us. It’s always on the second night, in deference to our guests’ family traditions. In the old days we would drink insane amounts of wine, and try to be funny when Bill called on us to read—Zach was always the simple son, Nathaniel with his dyslexia always got the parts with the hard-to-pronounce names. Emma always added “or she” to her parts, and Samantha could be relied upon to stroke the massive horseradish root and purr like Liz Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The choruses were raucous, and ended in laughter. Time went on, and the circle expanded. Boyfriends and girlfriends became husbands and wives. Playpens and bouncy seats appeared around the table. People started leaving earlier, leaving more bottles unopened. Watching Bill lead the seder was one of the things that made me fall in love with him. He was not raised in a religious household, does not attend synagogue. The tradition for him is personal, it is principled. He would never use kumbaya words like “celebrate,” “community” and “cherish,” but he felt a strong urge to bring together the people close to him and continue a tradition in which he saw beauty, and history, and worth. He led the seder with love, with just enough irreverence that it was fun, with a seriousness that made us all feel privileged to take part.

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