Dear Shaina,

No apologies necessary. I’m good with our different taste inclinations. Besides, Dad loves those sweet gooey hamantashen.

I’ve moved on to Passover. It’s so early this year. I am used to your birthday falling on Passover, but never Dad’s! It’s a good thing Passover desserts are not a problem in this house. He loves Bubbe’s sponge cake (made with potato starch) cut up and layered with fresh and frozen syrupy strawberries and whipped cream. But the Chocolate Ball is the real hit. It’s easy to make, gluten-free and the chocaholics love it.

I’m not sure why people get so tortured over Passover food. So much of what we eat throughout the year is already Passover friendly or easily adapted. My Chicken Piccata is a great example. Other than substituting matzah meal for flour for dredging the chicken breasts, everything else…oil, garlic, herbs, capers, lemon juice, wine…is all good for Passover.  Matzah farfel loaded with sautéed onions and mushrooms is the perfect accompaniment and a stand-alone veggie dish.

But it’s not all about the food. I am already feeling your absence from the table – no weird food experiments, no random friends appearing and no globally-inspired “Shaina readings.” The last time you missed a Seder, you were also in India. I set the tables with block-printed fabric made by local artisans that we bought while visiting you there.

So much has changed about the seders over the years. There are no more hordes of little, or big, kids to search for the multiple afikomen envelopes containing matzoh and a $2 bill. (I actually came upon one today that got missed last year!) No more newfound friends that you or Dad bring home… “Oh mom, I hope its OK that I invited my Civil War class to the second seder.” “How many?”  “12 or 13 plus the teacher and his wife.”

And its been a very long time since we had any toddlers (egged on by the slightly older cousins) disappearing into the secret space beneath the adjoining tabletops shielded by floor length tablecloths, where they discovered a world of legs attached to shoes that could be removed and later ransomed for afikomen money.

Y’all grew up…in a flash! Only one cousin is making it home for second seder this year. It just won’t be the same.

Except for the food. I’ll still make enough gefilte fish, matzah balls and chicken soup and all kinds of roasted veggies and kugels to last the entire week. There will be something for the vegetarians, the dairy-free, the gluten-free and the sugar-free. Those with a sweet tooth will be more than satisfied. There will be an orange on all three seder plates along with the same shank bones that have lived in our freezer for at least ten years. And the women will do our ritual shot of slivovitz in the kitchen to bless the evening.

I think I’ll make some Indian-spiced haroset to go with the Indian block-printed fabric that I will drape over the tables, again, this year, a little bit of you with us.

Wishing you a happy and tasty Passover wherever you happen to be.

All my love (and your Dad’s, too),