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  • Marilyn Saltzman

Having My Seder and My Granddaughter Too

I was preparing a Passover seder for 20 guests, and my granddaughter, Selam, asked if she could spend the night to help. Although she is almost ten years old, I worried that she would slow me down. I thought of all the potential issues – she’d want me to play cards when I needed to work; she’d make a mess in the kitchen; she wouldn’t sleep well.

Seder means order, and it is not only the name of the Passover ritual, it’s also a Mussar trait I practice diligently. With Selam around, I feared my orderly preparation of the meal would be stymied. I can’t possibly clean the house, set the table and cook all the food to my demanding standards of seder with my granddaughter at my heels, I thought.

“Maybe next weekend,” I said. “I have too much work.”

“Please, Moo.”

“I’ll be working the whole time. We won’t have much time to play,” I replied.

But she was not to be deterred.  “Mr. T taught us how to write a persuasive essay. I’m going to write one with five reasons why you should let me spend the night.”

And so she did. “Five reasons and a lot of Spooktacular evidence,” she began. “My first reason for this is I will help out the whole time. For example, when I finish breakfast in the morning and brush my teeth, I will start working….”

“My second reason for this is I won’t disobey or be rude to you nor Poo. To prove this, if you say time to brush your teeth, be nice to Dian (her brother) or STOP whatever I’m doing, I salute, YES Ma’am!!!…”

The letters goes on: “I won’t annoy Dian. I’ll go to sleep whenever you say.” And finally, the climactic fifth reason, “You don’t even have to pay me for the chores. That is unless you want!”

So what is a grandma who values writing to do? How could I refuse to honor a two-page convincing, entertaining essay from a fourth grader?  Of course I let her spend the night. And she kept her word. She dusted the bedrooms, swept the deck and settled down to sleep when I asked.

As expected, I did have to sacrifice some of my need for seder. The blankets were piled haphazardly on the bed, and there were dust mites on the bookcase. Setting the festive table, Selam folded the linen napkins in triangles, a bit askew, the knives and forks on top in different patterns at each place setting. Tempted to straighten out the silverware, I stopped myself as I thought about another Mussar trait – kavod (honor).  I decided that in this instance, kavod was much more important than seder.  I wanted to honor her for keeping her promises and for working so hard. I left the table exactly as she set it and thanked her.

Despite my trepidation, the sleepover was a success. It was a win for both of us – she got her wish, and I got an opportunity to practice kavod and balance my need for seder.

P.S. I did pay her for the chores. I’m a grandmother, after all!

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