When There’s No Party to Host…

…Do It Anyway!

Wednesday night of last week (August 8, 2020) was the first night of Passover.  It was supposed to be my moment to shine. Last year, I hosted Passover Seder (the traditional dinner and service) at my home for the first time. I am now the one in the family with the largest dining room and enough matching flatware for everyone, so it kind of naturally became my duty to host such an occasion.  To be honest, when we renovated our house a few years ago, a huge dining room was one of the few requests I made for the project. Being the dinner party host has always been something I’ve enjoyed.

Last year, I came out swinging with a gorgeous set-up in my dining room to host 24 guests (plus the prophet Elijah) for my first attempt at hosting.  I had bold jewel tones in the flowers, glassware, and napkins.  We had access to gorgeous never-been-used china that had been purchased for a not-yet-open restaurant owned by my boyfriend and his brother.

It was amazing, but I had to top it this year.  So, months ago, I started to think about what my Seder table would look like this year.  I never imagined at the time that my dining room would be bare, and my family would be separated, along with millions of others.  COVID-19 hit Maryland just days before I was planning to send the official invitation out to the family about spending the first night of Passover at my house.  We had no idea how long it would last, but we had to remain flexible.  I was still hoping to be the consummate dinner party hostess, but I had to follow the advice that I would have given any of my clients, and prepare myself to go to plan B.

About a week or so before Passover began, our family pulled the trigger on Plan B, which was to stay in our respective homes and Zoom together for Seder.  My heart was broken.  I had great ideas for our Seder table, all based on the pattern of our brand new china! But the design plans would need to be put on hold, because most of what I had in mind was inaccessible during the stay-at-home orders.

Screen Shot of my computer. I Screen-Shared a digital version of a Haggadah, while viewing some of my family members in Gallery View!

I didn’t want to let this get me down.  Designing and decorating is what feeds my soul.  I could have sat at my kitchen counter for this Seder. But I needed to use my dining room. I needed to design something, even if there was no one to design for. But I would also need to scale back considerably.  The china would not be bought in vain! And I would make do with the flowers I could find at the local grocery store. I set the table for a measly 6 guests, despite expecting at least 15-20 in a world where Coronavirus didn’t exist.  My grandmother’s good crystal glassware and every kiddush cup I owned were on the table.  A barren Seder plate was at one end of the table, and my laptop computer was at the other.  I was proud of what I pulled together that day with only a few resources. It was modest (for me) but I enjoyed having just a taste of the process of setting up for an event like this. I definitely turned my computer around at the start of the Seder to show my family what I had prepared. (I got a few ooo’s and ahh’s)

My Kiddush cup from my Bat Mitzvah, 25 years (to the day) before this Seder

My favorite Seder Plate, laser cut, sat empty

This spring, as we learn to navigate our “new normal” (Ugh, are we done with that phrase yet?) we are adapting to life without our family nearby.  It is so tough this time of year.  Many of us crave the human/family connection around these holidays, particularly Passover and Easter.  But instead, we had to figure out Zoom – how to put it in gallery view, when to mute ourselves, how to speak in unison during a group reading, and how to make sure our screen is tilted just right so our family members aren’t just looking at our eyebrows and foreheads. At the end of the Seder, it is recited: “Next year in Jerusalem!”  This year, I said, “Next year at my house!” Because, let’s face it: All of us making it to Jerusalem isn’t all that realistic.  But can we please at least be with our families, in person?

If throwing a party or hosting a dinner is what keeps you sane, if decorating a dining room table is good for your wellness, do it!  Who cares that it’s just you?

Stay safe and healthy, everyone.