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It’s Pesach this week, so we went to my Great-Aunt’s seder.  She has been holding seder at her house for at least my whole life, but I suspect the real number is closer to 50+ years.  She invites everyone in the family.  I have an extraordinary amount of cousins, so on any given year depending on who can get home from college or who is too pregnant to travel or is in the United States at the time, we can have anywhere from 40 to 60 people show up for the meal.  And that isn’t even close to being all of us.  But still 60 people for dinner — pretty huge deal.

I have always loved seder.  First of all, I got to see my sister-cousins.  Second of all, my Great-Aunt was never phased by twenty screaming children running through her house, playing a massive game of hide-and-go-seek (and you could always find an adult who would convincingly lie for you and look blankly at the seeker while saying, “Mel?  Haven’t seen her in hours.”)  Third of all, nothing changes: we use the same Hagaddah (the Jewish prayer book for the service that precedes the meal) every year, the kids play the same games every year, my Great-Aunt cooks the same recipes every year.  I love the predictability of it.


This year was small because a bunch of people couldn’t travel or weren’t in the United States, so we only had around 30 people there.  Which meant that we got more turns to read from the Hagaddah than usual.  Because we’ve been reading from the same Hagaddah for my entire life, we have a lot of inside jokes as a family, and we look to see who gets certain lines.  But there’s one line that only I think about year after year.

Let’s stick our face in the Pensieve, shall we?

It was some time in the early 1980’s and a young Melissa was not yet fearful of reading aloud in front of people.  One by one, family members read aloud from the Hagaddah, going around the table in order.  When it got to her, she looked down at the book and started reading in a loud, clear voice, hoping her words were carrying down the long table to her Great-Uncle because she really wanted to impress him with her excellent reading skills.  And that is when it happened.  She came to the word “triumph” and she said it as “trumpet.”  And some older cousin corrected her absentmindedly, stating the correct word — “triumph” — and the next person started reading the next paragraph.  But in Melissa’s head, she heard silently added in everyone’s brain: “Dude, you suck at reading aloud, hardcore.”

I’m sure no one else remembers this moment but me, but I think of it not only every time we get to that part of the Hagaddah, but every time I have to get up and speak in front of people.

[I similarly have a different story I think of every time I have to hand write something that will be posted somewhere.  I once had to make a poster for a presentation in 11th grade history class.  I wrote it out in pencil, checked it a dozen times because I was anxious about embarrassing mistakes, and then went over the pencil in ink.  It looked perfect.  I got to the classroom and put up the poster, and I heard people snickering.  And then, when I looked back at it, I realized that I had written “effect” as “efefct.”  And, yes, I still think about e-f-e-f-c-t constantly, and I check the twins’ posters like a hawk before they bring them to school.]

This year at the seder, we’re traveling around the table, reading aloud paragraphs, and the WOLVOG GOT THE TRIUMPH.  He got my nemesis, the paragraph that launched a million anxieties.  My stomach clenched while I silently read it with him, even though he was calmly reading it without any idea that his mother was two seats away at the table, poised to scream out to everyone, “it’s a difficult word!” if he stumbled on it.  But my G-d, he stuck the landing.  HE STUCK THE LANDING.  That boy read aloud the word as if it were as simple as “the.”  And then his sister started reading her paragraph, and I felt as if something had been redeemed.  I may not have been able to read that paragraph myself when I was his age, but I raised a child who could.

Plus, for bonus points, the twins sang aloud the Four Questions in perfect Hebrew.

Do you have any embarrassing moments from childhood that you still think about until this day?  Were they ever redeemed?


1 Eric DI Dad { 03.31.13 at 8:35 am }

Great post. I think Pesach is the first place many of us read for the first time in public with family. Scary when you are little.

2 Queenie { 03.31.13 at 10:40 am }

I do, and it’s a perfect memory for today, because I was wearing my Easter skirt when it happened. I was about ten, and wearing a long light blue skirt trimmed with eyelet lace. I thought I was just gorgeous. We were in church and the minister was giving the sermon, and I left to go to the bathroom. I was old enough to go by myself. I was all proud of myself and my beautiful skirt, and was on my way back from the bathroom, just about to walk through the door into the main part of the church again. This particular door was just off to the right of where the minister stood speaking, so the entire (huge) congregation would have been facing the door. JUST as I was about to open the door, a kind older lady stopped me. “Dear, you’ve got your skirt tucked into your tights.” She helped me pull it out and smoothed it down.

To this day, I cannot leave a ladies room without smoothing my skirt three times to make sure it isn’t tucked into my tights/hose/underwear.

3 a { 03.31.13 at 11:08 am }

I learned this week that I don’t remember anything. But my next older sister remembers everything about the rest of us – not sure she remembers her own embarrassments. My friend’s mom said it’s because I just don’t care – I think she’s probably right. (She did not mean that in a bad way – it’s more of…the details aren’t as important as the people, I think)

4 Peach { 03.31.13 at 11:23 am }

At my sisters wedding, I was wearing my very first dress (I was a tomboy and never wore them). I was surprised to find I actually liked it. After leaving the washroom at the reception I walked straight down the middle of the room to talk to my sister. My aunt scurried down behind me and when I stopped she reached behind me and untucked my skirt. I had walked the whole length of the room….in front if everyone…with my undies showing. Thank Goodness they were mostly family, but the ended my dress wearing days for good!

5 Catwoman73 { 03.31.13 at 11:57 am }

I love your family stories, Mel. 🙂

One day when I was in grade six, I burped really, really loud in class. Of course, I didn’t mean to- I was a really shy kid, and would never do anything to draw that much attention to myself. I must have turned 50 shades of scarlet.

To add to the humiliation factor, later on in the day, we all had to write in our journals for 15 minutes, and at the end, the teacher asked if anyone would like to share what they wrote. The kid sitting in front of me jumped at the opportunity, went up to the front of the class, and started reading his story, all about my giant burp. Thankfully, the teacher put a stop to it, but I was beyond humiliated.

There is no redemption for something like this… I still turn red when I think about it!!!

6 Lollipop Goldstein { 03.31.13 at 11:58 am }

I wonder how many of us have a skirt tucked in the underpants or tights story. Mine was that I sat in bubblegum, and the bottom of the skirt stuck to the top of the skirt where the bubblegum was. Grape Hubba Bubba. And I was on a school field trip.

7 Another Dreamer { 03.31.13 at 12:45 pm }

This post made me smile 🙂 I love hearing about close families and their traditions- we never really had that growing up, and it’s something I’ve always wanted. And I hope to give that to my son.

I have way too many memories of mistakes, for whatever reason I can’t let them go. I can’t say that I’ve really redeemed any of them, but I’ve learned from them as best I could. I’m trying to think of specifics but nothing is coming to me right now. I’ll try to come back if I remember something specific.

I have a lot of memories where I used words incorrectly because I didn’t know their meaning, I always just used their sentence context and inferred their meanings… those never went do well. Or using words I didn’t know were swear words. Man, I got in so much trouble over those instances! I later became an English major when I went to college… so I never really gave up using words above my reach. I just started reaching higher.

8 Justine { 03.31.13 at 2:29 pm }

I need to think about a good story to share. But in the meantime: I love Seders. My ex-boyfriend who lives in DC (who knows the falafel place) used to invite me to his parent’s Seder every year, where they always seem to collect 20 or 30 random interesting people in addition to their immediate family. Come to think of it, he still does invite me … but we haven’t been able to go for a while. When I *did* go, they would stick me with some responsibility that would make me look silly. Halfway through the Seder, they sing the Dickey-bird song … I can’t recall why. Maybe it’s a break from the plagues? But I was once asked to lead it. I wasn’t sure if I was mortified, or if I’d arrived. 😉 And once, in my grad school days, I was the youngest present, and I had to go find the afikomen. I miss those Seders.

9 Tiara { 03.31.13 at 7:39 pm }

Oh my, if I wrote even half the embarrassing moments from childhood that I still think about today, we’d still be here tomorrow & probably the next day!! So glad you got your redemption…& bonus points!!

10 Amber { 04.01.13 at 11:59 am }

Another dress tucked into the tights story: It was picture day of my 5th grade year, my first year of middle school. I wore my best dress, a blue dress with white lace and a few ruffles. I arrived at school early that day and thinking I looked so good in my pretty blue dress. While waiting for the doors to open, there were a few older kids snickering. As it turned out, I had my dress tucked into my tights in back. I was mortified!!!

11 JustHeather { 04.01.13 at 3:06 pm }

Thanks for sharing, I love hearing about how you celebrate the holidays. I learn something new.
I was reminded of two embarrassing moments from when I was younger.
The first, I think I had to give a presentation or at least had to speak in front of people. One of the words I needed to use was condominium and as I practiced what I was going to say for my mom, I kept saying condom. She suggested I just say condo instead.
The second was when I was about 9-10 years old. My mom’s mom had sent me a blue sweater with sheep on the front. I wrote a thank you letter telling my grandma thank you for the sheep shit. I was very grateful (after the fact) for my mom checking the letter before it went out.

12 Lori Lavender Luz { 04.02.13 at 5:22 pm }

My humiliation story also has to do with worship. One Sunday when I was about 10 I ended up in the lead for the communion line as it went from the side of the church to the altar to receive the sacraments.

Only I went around the lectern the wrong way. Nobody followed me. It was at the front of the church and I was certain everyone in the pews had witness my faux pas and was laughing at me.

Seeing with today’s eyes, I see that probably very few noticed, much less cared.

Aside: is that your family’s table? I love how long it is, how it spans more than one room.

13 Rachel { 04.02.13 at 5:55 pm }

Where as I would like to tell you they don’t remember, a cousin once read “a wandering Aramean” as a “wondering Armenian” and EVERY YEAR we wait for that part so we can laugh. It wasn’t that funny, but OMG DO WE LOVE THAT PART.

(sorry if I gave you a complex. But a wandering Armenian? I always picture Kim Kardashian as a bag lady.)

14 Julie { 04.03.13 at 5:51 pm }

It never occurred to me that other families would have all their own goofy seder traditions. Not until this very moment. My family, of course, has their own wacky seder traditions, including finger puppets of the Ten Plagues that were originally purchased when my cousin’s kids were old enough to join in, but even this year when there were no kids (except my 5 month old twins) present, we still whipped out the puppets like it was a part of the service that OF COURSE we had to do. So funny. We still use the Maxwell House haggadah, photocopied back in the 80s with wine and charoset stains from the past 30+ years. 🙂

15 Julie { 04.03.13 at 5:51 pm }

Oh, and I got a little choked up at the part where your twins did the 4 Questions. Can’t wait for my boys to make their big debut someday!

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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