“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
—Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
I’m sure the above quote is appearing online everywhere. This is only due to the fact that the COVID-19 virus has made this saying especially relevant. I’ll use it anyway.
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As did many others around the world, on the first night of Passover, our family celebrated our first online Seder. The 5 PM EST login time on Zoom had been agreed upon earlier in the day and everyone showed up promptly, except Lily. Where could she be? As the minutes ticked by, I began to worry that Henry and Otto, sitting so nicely at the table, were going to lose patience and get antsy. In a coordinated effort, I began texting her while David tried calling. No response. Then, Ben, with his own inimitable way of thinking, got the bright idea to check her Instagram. Sure enough! Turning his phone to display the evidence, there was Lily singing and strumming a new song uploaded just a few seconds before. Moments later, she beamed in on our screen. There was a momentary pause as we all had a look at each other. Four little windows: Max and Megan with the grandkids, Ben in LA, Lily in Brooklyn and Sam, Dave and me and I thought to myself, “These are the good times.”
* * *
“These are the good times.” My mother-in-law, Beverly Seeger, was always quick to make this statement, especially during extremely trying times. In the midst of dire circumstances, there might be a golden moment—maybe something endearing or funny had just happened, a little ray of sunshine glimmering through, maybe we had stopped to laugh for a split second—and then Bev would say it.
I’ll admit that at first, I found it annoying. Groaning inwardly, I would think to myself, “Yeah, right. Sure.” Over time, as life went on, her message began to sink in—no matter how terrible things are, beauty, love, and hope still surround us. Time is fleeting, be present. All we have to do is to be open to recognizing these moments and fully appreciate them. The pronouncement, “These are the good times” was always followed by, “Remember these words. You’ll think of me when you do.”
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In the midst of this bizarre, frustrating and sorrowful world-wide situation, looking back on the holiday we just celebrated, one Passover especially comes to mind. At the time, my dad was wheelchair-bound and very ill. Despite the somber circumstances and with great reservations on my part, we went ahead and held one of the biggest seders we had ever had, 38 people in all. David, ever the Grand Master of Ceremony, greatly enjoys an audience and has always had a habit of running long seders. Almost everyone always seems to have fun and that night was no exception. It was getting late and we were more than halfway through the second part of the service, but my mother had had enough. Oblivious of my Dad’s quiet protests—he didn’t want to leave just yet so as not to be rude—my mother unceremoniously steered him and herself around the table and out the door.
It felt to me as though the energy of the room left with them and I was immediately saddened by the thought that this might well be my Dad’s last Spring with us. A feeling of exhaustion completely overtook me. Sitting miserably across the table from Beverly, my mother-in-law sensed my mood and would have none of it. Despite her own recent health issues, she leaped up from her chair, grabbed her dinner napkin and twirled it dramatically over her head, urging me and everyone else to get up and dance. In minutes, everyone was up, prancing around the table and singing songs. In spite of my gloom, I had to smile and even laugh, although I am sorry to say that, I did not rally forth and join them, despite the nagging sense that I might forever regret it. One thing for certain was, that year was one of the worst times of my life, but I also remember that it had beautiful happy moments, as well.
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While gazing into the four windows of our Online Family Seder in that golden moment in unimaginable times, I could still picture Grandma Bev impishly snapping her napkin. She was indeed right. "These are the Good Times." Yes, Bev, we remember you.