As Lake Union is re-issuing my book, I'm resting a bit on the Passover holiday and re-publishing an earlier post on the relevant topic of "a Seder for Freedom."
After Emancipation, like everyone else on the place, Rachel pondered the meaning of freedom. The dreams that had sustained her when she was a slave—a silk dress, new books, a house of her own, money of her own—seemed foolish now. As Passover approached, she thought about freedom more than ever. She was no longer a slave in the land of Egypt. She craved the words of the Seder to tell her so.
She asked Adelaide, her former mistress, “Should we have Passover this year?”
Adelaide said sharply, “Do we need to? The children of Israel just got freed and it’s Passover every day now.”
Rachel said, “I want to do it proper. Hear the words in the Passover book.”
“Never knew you cared so much about Passover.”
Rachel quoted, “Avadim hayinu b’erez mizrayim. I’ve heard those words every year of my life. Do you think I didn’t know what they meant?”
Adelaide said to Rachel, “Do you really want to stir up everyone on the place by reminding them of the story of getting free from Egypt?”
Rachel said, “Everyone already stirred up.”
Adelaide asked, “What about you? Are you?”
Rachel was silent, but not as a slave was silent. She didn’t cast her eyes down, or soften her expression. She stared at her sister, reminding her of the way they’d read the Emancipation Proclamation together.
Adelaide sat back wearily in her chair. “Don’t know how we’ll manage without matzah.”
Rachel laughed. “We could mix together cornmeal and water, bake it into a pone, put it on a plate, and call it the bread of affliction.”
“Ain’t that the truth.”
A week before the holiday, Adelaide came back from her father’s place with a basket over her arm. She set it on the kitchen table and said to Rachel, “You’ll never guess what came through the blockade.”
“Coffee?” Rachel missed coffee even more than she missed marmalade.
Adelaide opened the basket and folded back the napkin. Wrapped in it were three rounds of matzah. “Bread of affliction.”