Our friends included us in their Passover Seder last night in a garden under ancient California oak trees. At a long table covered in oat-colored linen, with twinkling candles and pots of thyme and lavender and vases of orange and pink ranunculus we heard and read the Passover story, mostly from the many children. We were asked to introduce ourselves with our names and something of interest. Most said "I'm Jack and I'm happy to be here". A three year old boy in a palm tree shirt said "I'm Abraham and I'm a big brother" as his mother was home with his day-old sister. A pretty older lady just down the table from me said in a heavy accent "I am Marie and this is my first seder." She had come from France to visit her daughter for Easter.
Bowls of horseradish, parsley, salt water, the apple/nut mixture (charoset), hard-boiled eggs, a lamb shank bone (z'roa) were laid out, with plates of Matzoh. The children donned masks to act out the great plagues.
And there was baked chicken with pomegranate seeds and pinenuts, candied carrots with currants and cumin, quinoa, grilled asparagus, french fries made from garbanzos (chick peas) served with a Harissa sauce. And if course macaroons made by our host's sister.
"Don't worry" said our good-natured host clad in Moroccan Sephardic robes "you're not the only Goyem."
He boomed into a microphone that looks like one Elvis would have used and listens intently as Imogen, 5, tells the story of Moses in the bullrushes. The Maharishi meanwhile has found the part of the table where his high school cronies are sitting. "I'm John" he says "and I'm at the Beverly table."
The wine, a Talbott Pinot Noir, is delicious. I tuck into the Matzoh before I'm supposed to "Hide it under your napkin" whispers the Maharishi and nicks a piece. I find a friend, a woman who runs a writers group, and has published countless novels and plays -- somewhat of a local celebrity in the literary world -- who also cares for her aging husband with Parkinson's. She is dear and fascinating and the conversation turns to Joyce Carol Oates who we saw speak at the library last week, and absence.
Across the table one of the Beverly boys, a former city councilman pipes up that Oates was his professor in college...but they didn't see eye to eye.
And I stare at him in wrapt awestruck admiration. And the woman across from me, a girlfriend, tells me the story of her transgender childhood friend. The conversation moves to gender issues. Her mother joins in. We talk about love and pairing.
At the other end of the table I spy more old friends we haven't seen in a decade, but is impossible to greet them with more than an enthusiastic wave.
And so it goes. All of us there under the just full moon and the oak trees, sharing a meal based on a story from 9,000 years before Christ. Something very lovely there.