Different Than All Other Nights
Going It Alone
Vivian Honig continues Passover traditions as a single mother.
JILL DAVIDSON SKLAR STAFF WRITER PHOTO BY GLENN TRIEST
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to do this, but
it is a lot of work," she said.
The first year was hard. There was an unspoken
knowledge among the participants in the seder; no
one wanted to mention the impending divorce or
even her husband's name.
"It was stressful," Ms. Honig said, adding that she
broke the ice by sharing a funny memory of a past
seder her husband had led. "But we got through it."
Now she is becoming seasoned at putting togeth-
er the whole holiday, from shopping to cleaning the
car, on her own. The preparations begin two weeks
before Purim when she starts a shopping list
of things she has run out of.
"And then there is the second shopping list
of everything I forgot on the first trip," she said.
"I don't know anyone who can do it in one trip."
She has also learned to do by herself the
things that she used to do with her husband.
When they were married, the pair would pol-
ish the long dining-room table together as they
watched the Academy Awards on a 13-inch
television screen. This year, she polished alone.
She also is enlisting more help from her
daughter Jennifer and son Daniel. Each have
tasks to perform, just as they did in the past.
To accommodate a smaller budget, she has
learned to cut back in some ways and com-
pensate in others. Last year, for example, she
used the services of Quality Kosher Catering
to supplement her seder. This year she will
prepare more of the meal herself or rely on
friends to bring the ingredients.
"I tell people, 'You can do this. As long as
you don't expect the moon, you can do this,"
she said. "If you don't have (Passover), it is be-
cause you gave it up."
She also has omitted things like a phrase
her husband used to say at the beginning of
each seder, a tradition his parents had begun.
"We used to say it for his benefit. He's not
here so why should we say it?" she said.
But while some things have changed, other
aspects of the seder have remained the same.
Her husband's family always ate potatoes as
their green vegetable, her family always had
celery. At the earlier Honig seders, both sym-
bols were used. When a family member asked
why the potato reappeared last year even when
her husband did not, she didn't miss a beat.
"I am still a Honig and my children are
Honigs," she said. "You don't wipe out a his-
Vivian H onig
a fill-up — were emblazoned with a map unloads h er van tory, and this is part of our history."
And this year there will be other losses at
of Wyoming or New Hampshire and a with Dani el and
the seder. A friend, known for the plate of
copy of the state song.
chopped liver she would bring to every Passover
So when Vivian split from her husband
celebration, passed away in February.
Ronald two years ago, there was no thought in her
"The first thing everybody said was 'we're not go-
mind that her family's Passover traditions would
not continue. If for no one else, she was going to do ing to have chopped liver,' " Ms. Honig said. "Sure,
I have a grinder, but nobody could make it like she
it for her two children.
"I was not going to give up Passover. No way," did. You learn you can't replace some things.
"Life is about transitions. Everybody has a tran-
she said. "Children have to know that a family can
reconfigure itself and still be considered a family." sitional phase," she said. "Last year it was me. This
To prove this, the Farmington Hills resident is year it is my friend's family.
"And everybody has additions and subtractions,"
going ahead with her plans for the second year in
a row as a single parent, cooking, cleaning and she said. "Let's hope there are some additions in
the next year." ❑
preparing to lead a seder for 18.
vian Honig grew up believing that
Passover was a special time for all Jew-
In fact, one of her favorite wedding
gifts is an embroidered pillow case a
friend gave her to use on Passover. Every year, she
would pull out the case and place it on the pillow
her husband used.
And one of her favorite memories is of unwrap-
ping things only used at Passover, like a set of glass-
es her mother would bring out each year. The
glasses — the type given at gas stations free with
ly is responsible for bringing its own seder plate,
matzah and wine. The salads, kugels, hard-boiled
eggs, vegetables and turkeys were parceled out
among the cousins.
One of the final details at the last meeting was
a debate. Judy Mege of New York and Norman
Levin in California definitely were coming. Should
cousin Kenneth Rocklin, the final hold-out, be
called in Connecticut to pressure him to come?
The five-minute discussion ended in a vote not
to harass him.
But, when brother Sheldon called Kenny the
next day and told him of the debate, and of cousin
Norman's hopes of seeing him after 30 years, the
conversation tipped the scales. All 10 originals
will be at the seder.
Norman is bringing with him a detailed fam-
ily tree. His sister Phyllis has a reel-to-reel tape
of one of Grandpa's last seders. It is being re-
recorded on cassette.
Perhaps Sharon Rocklin summarizes the re-
union seder best, while describing herself as a
non-original "affectionate observer":
"I've listened to the stories of a family very
much like every other group of Eastern European
Jews who emigrated to this country within the
past 75 to 100 years. They are very ordinary, but
"I have admired the realistic tone the memo-
ries take. The fond recollections of how beautiful
Grandma was, or how talented a sister was, or
how well Grandpa ran the seder, are not dimin-
ished by other images that come up.
"Grandpa may have had a caustic personality;
Grandma may have shown favoritism; this sis-
ter bickered with that one. It is all woven together
like a great tapestry.
"As the extended group comes together this
year, although many will be missing, the tables
will welcome those as far from the original gath-
erings as third and fourth generations. The
cousins will come together from all parts of the
country with their spouses, children and, for some,
"Together they will fulfill the mitzvah of telling
the story of Passover. They will demonstrate with
a single event one of the great strengths of Ju-
daism, and of families — continuity." ❑