Friday, April 10, 2009

Rites of Spring

Despite the economic crisis and the earthquake tragedy in L'Aquila, life goes on, and we're in a season of celebration and renewal. A few evenings ago I attended my second Passover Seder ever and we're now in the lead-up to Easter. It's that magical moment when the dreariness of a long gray winter gives way to an outpouring of color.

Both Seders I've attended have been involved with a writer named Ruth Gruber. In the first, the Seder was at the home of a close friend who had come to America with his family on the one ship authorized to bring refugees from Europe during WWII, a voyage documented by Ruth Gruber in her book, Haven, the Unknown Story of 1000 WWII Refugees. My wife and daughter and I were the only gentiles at that Seder. This year I participated in a Seder hosted by a younger writer, our neighbor and friend, Ruth Ellen Gruber. As it turned out, Ruth was outnumbered 10 to 1 by gentiles but she did an excellent job of guiding us through the ritual and explaining the miracle of the Passover. The miracle she didn't explain was how matzoh balls could taste so good. While I'm in no position to judge her religious officiating, she did seem to have some divine guidance in the kitchen.

It got me to thinking that perhaps I should host a celebration of some Calvinist holiday for my neighbors in Italy, but short of Thanksgiving, which has long been rather ecumenical (and which we have introduced to a number of Italian friends), I couldn't remember any. Come to think of it, communion in our Dutch Reformed (later Presbyterian) church, was celebrated with grape juice, which may have something to do with my being a lapsed Protestant, although I'm told I do still tend to protest a lot.

Next week our fourth grandchild is due to be born. I hope they'll name him Tiberio, but between children and grandchildren this is the seventh baby I've hoped to see named Tiberio. Due to an accident of birth, I grew up in an American family but for much of my life I've felt that Rome was my spiritual home, and of all the beautiful Roman names, Tiberio is my personal favorite. Easter is here and with its celebration comes the end of Lenten sacrifices. Jack Daniels will reappear. So here's to Tiberio, or Jack or Daniel or whoever he'll be. Salute!

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