2017 minus 54: Pets and Pesach

Posted: 8 November 2016 in 2017 minus

One of the consequences of me not blogging for most of this year is that Pesach – Passover, if you don’t know what Pesach is – passed this year without my annual repost of my ex-wife’s recipé for Matzoh Pizza. Yes, I know, it’s a niche topic at best, but it’s just something I usually do.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to post it now, but I remembered it the other day when I was reminded that a friend views matzoh so derisively that she thinks its cardboard packaging both tastes nicer and is more nutritious.

I’d like to argue with that, but to be honest I’d probably lose the argument. Oh, ok, here’s a link to Matzoh Pizza if you’re curious….

That evening, as I was feeding Rowlf – an Australian labradoodle who occasionally allows me to sit on the sofa – it occurred to me that while Pesach and Pets are two things that you might not automatically associate, they do share something in common.

Specifically, I think, they give more credence to the old one about what you’re like as an adult has roots in your childhood.

Now, I’m not about to say the following is conclusive, nor that it applies in every circumstance, but as someone in his 50s, I’ve come to realise something about pets and Pesach (specifically, Seder nights).

And while my name isn’t Anne Elk (Miss), my theory is as follows:

If you didn’t have them as a child, you’re unlikely to have them, want them, or enjoy them as an adult.

I stress “unlikely”. It’s not impossible, by any means, but I’d suggest odds are against it.

Also, I’ll acknowledge, it’s not a particularly original idea; you could say the same about any number of things, particularly to do with religion, or more specifically, religious observance. But in my own case, although friends of mine had pets, Seder nights, or sometimes both, I had neither as a child.

My parents never held Seder nights when I was a kid. Apparently, although my dad’s parents never had them, mum’s did, up until the second world war, and ceased at that point, when my mum was a child. (She was nine when WWII ended). They never recommenced, so by the time I was born, and then through my childhood, seders were just things other people did. I can’t remember even being invited to one as a child. (I’m pretty sure I went to some synagogue based ones, I must have at some point, but I just don’t remember them.)

So… I never grew up with them. The first “proper” Seder night I attended was at a girlfriend’s family when I was in my 20s. (I went to a couple when at Manchester Poly, but they were simply an excuse to get together for a meal – I don’t remember anything specifically Seder-ish going on, and then alcohol afterwards.)

So, that seder. Hmm. Now, I liked the girl I was seeing at the time, but didn’t enjoy the Seder at all… I found it, I don’t know, just strange. Didn’t feel ‘familiar’ or ‘welcoming’ or anything. I didn’t feel… ‘comfortable’. It just felt like everyone, especially me, was going through the motions.

Skip forward a few years, and I met Laura, whose family did – and still do – have family Seders. They made me more than welcome, got me involved in every part of it. and everyone else enjoyed themselves. I stress this to make it clear that they were in no way at fault. But in all honesty, I can say that it was almost the only family event Laura’s lot put on when I didn’t feel… comfortable.

After a couple of tries at it, in future years I always found that I had to work those evenings. Funny how that works out, isn’t it? Laura’s family… understood… and it was never an issue.

Laura and I split up in 2005 (though we only finally got around to divorcing last year). Since then, in the eleven years since…? No. Oh, in the early years I received the occasional invitation to friends’ Seder nights. I was never tempted to accept the invitations, and pretty soon the invitations stopped coming, which suited everyone.

Similarly with pets; I never had any when I was growing up. (No, a little brother doesn’t count.)

My parents didn’t want them, didn’t like them in fact. I can’t remember any occasion where either of my parents spoke warmly of pets, with the single exception of friends of theirs who had what everyone else has always called “An Old English Sheepdog” but what an entire generation grew up calling “A Dulux Dog”. But Buddy was a daft dog, one of those who’d walk backwards wagging his head.

But neither of my parents had pets when growing up, as far as I know anyway; oddly, I can’t remember my mum’s parents – I never knew my dad’s folks – expressing opinions one way or the other on pets.

So, no, no pets at home for me. My best friend at the time had a dog and I remember not exactly hating the animal; when my friend ‘settled down’, he and his wife had another dog. And she was lovely. So, while any number of my friends have had pets (dogs, cats, goldfish… don’t think anyone’s got any budgies though), until I moved into a house that had a fully fledged menagerie, it never even occurred to me to want one. I’m sure it’s because I didn’t have a pet as a child that the idea of having one as an adult was a non-starter.

For the past four years, I”ve lived in a house with a dog, two parrots, several chickens and many, many goldfish.

I’m convinced that each and every one of them would eat me for breakfast if it wasn’t that (a) the parrots are caged, (b) the goldfish are in water, (c) the chickens are cowards and (d) Rowlf is about as harmless as the goldfish and would sell his soul for more doggie biscuits.

But were I to be in a situation on my own when it was my choice whether to get a pet? I doubt I’d say yes. I very, very much doubt it indeed.

Again, I’m not saying that no-one who was pet-deprived as a child will want pets as an adult, and no-one who was Seder-deprived will want to hold Seders, but as a general rule of thumb, yeah, I think that it’s a pretty good guide.


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