PASSOVER IS HERE, and we look forward to our yearly Seder, blended as we will be into another family’s gracious celebration. It’s easier these days since there are only three of us to accommodate at their Seder table. It wasn’t always like this. And when it wasn’t, I got my first best dose of just how accommodating a sister can be.
When our daughter was 5 she had many outstanding qualities. Foremost among these was that she was relentlessly literal: If you said pink, she didn’t see cerise or fuschia or mauve. She saw pink. Anything to the left of that was “purplish-pink with a little red on top.” Anything to the right of that is “kind of tannish-pink with some extra white.” And anyone who didn’t see it that way was color blind.
So it was along such literal lines that my daughter approached the definitions of what makes a holiday, who celebrates them, and why. It was very important to her to know who of our friends and relations celebrates which holiday, and just how they do it. And, in the spirit of equality, she wanted me to provide for them all. This included her imaginary friend, Bibi Geggy. He’s Jewish. He’s also divorced, and at the time in question was dating two women (one, an Irish-Catholic named Rosie Davenport), and he’s a man who travels everywhere with his sister, Acalcia, and his dog, Walter Fleischman.
But don’t get me started on his lifestyle. Since I’ve written about Bibi Geggy before, I won’t repeat myself. Anyway, why would I, when just about every day Bibi raised so many new issues in our lives, including holidays. Bibi is a man of faith and, our daughter insisted, he needed to celebrate Hanukkah. Having no real idea how to do this, I called upon a sister. Granted, she’s Italian and a Catholic, but the lovely man in her life is Jewish, and I knew she honored his religious traditions.
What she posed was the option of a ninth night of the great festival. Now, even nonobservant Jews know that there are only eight nights of Hanukkah, but it seems that much like the 29th of February, the ninth night of Chanukah comes around only every so often. Together we assured my daughter that the holiday celebration would include the usual traditions: the latkes, the Hebrew prayer, the lighting or relighting of the menorah—and, of course, the empty seat, this time set aside not for Jehovah, but, rather, for Bibi Geggy.
The men wore yarmulkes and my dear sister-friend, Michele Santucci, served her famous homemade tortellini. The night was a smashing success. In the car home our daughter consulted with Bibi Geggy, who reported that he had such a fine time at Hanukkah and that he has hoping to be back for Passover. He was.
This piece ran some years ago in my parenting column, Mother’s Day, in The New York Daily News. I am reprinting these columns here for your use in writing your own parenting views. Enjoy.