I’m the only child — child being the operative word — of a family comprising one 97-year-old grandmother, three 70-year-old-ish aunts who never had children and two recently Medicare-eligible parents. For 37 years, I have been the haroset of each of their many eyes. And, because I never had any children, I remain the baby of the family. As the first born, last born and only born of my generation within my family, I have yet to really rise above child status, despite being in my late 30s.
I know you must be terribly jealous of my situation. And it is pretty great, nearly all of the time. I have a multitude of sincerely concerned, fairly anxious and occasionally guilt-pushing parental figures with whom to consult on all of my personal and professional decisions. I never need to even consider a rideshare to or from the airport, doctors’ appointments or concerts with impossible parking conditions. And — best part — I can rest assured that no matter what time of day or what room I enter across any of my family’s households, I can find either a video of me from childhood playing on loop in the background or an entire photo album dedicated to me positioned prominently on a coffee table.
But it’s not all roses. And particularly at Passover, it’s made abundantly clear that being in the spotlight continuously can be fatiguing for the performer. As the youngest member of my family for the past nearly four decades, my family’s first and second seders are never different from all the Passover seders before them. It’s literally me, doing all the things, every year.
The Four Questions: that’s me. You’d think reading them would get easier on the 30th or 35th annual presentation. It doesn’t. It remains a huge adrenaline rush, bringing with it the desperate desire to please the audience. I’ve perfected the questions, of course, but I refuse to bore my fans: Each year I try out a new intonation, accent or different rhythmic structure to keep it engaging.
The search for and barter over the afikoman: also me. In my dreams I’m perpetually on the hunt for that lone piece of matzah. But, between us, it stopped being a game for me many years ago, primarily because I’m the only horse in the race. Plus, I’ve memorized every closet’s top shelf, the back of every ceiling fan’s blade, and every couch cushion’s crevice within my grandma’s house. I break my record time finding the thing year over year — I’m down to 32 seconds and most of that time is spent trying to get up from the table because my knees just aren’t what they used to be. Don’t get me wrong; I play the part. I know they’re counting on me to act like the search is a real struggle and the ultimate discovery is a life-defining moment. And to be fair, I am genuinely pumped each and every year to haggle with my grandma over the exchange of a half piece of cracker for whatever she has in her wallet (shocker: it’s not insignificant).
No one seems to really care that I’m a full-grown, relatively high-functioning adult playing the part of a small child year after year. The show must go on because that’s Hollywood, baby. Meanwhile, for my family and for me, there is comfort in the constant, quite especially as the world around us continues to really lean into chaos. Jews are known for their traditions and rituals; I’m just not so sure anyone writing the Passover protocol anticipated the same “child” to headline for so many years.
Anyway, I’m next up. The gefilte fish is fresh, the audience is seated, and my agent (that’s my mom) has motioned for quiet — my Passover version of lights, camera, action. I’m trying out some new material this year; we’ll see how it lands. I’m using the voice of Anne Baxter’s Nefertari from “The Ten Commandments” while dressed as Charlton Heston’s Moses. It’s a real throwback mash-up and it’s bound to be my most historically inaccurate and borderline disturbing portrayal of the Four Questions yet.