The Shiebers, a very laid back Orthodox family, live near my dad’s house in Austin, the house I grew up in. Beginning when I was 13 and every year after that until I moved away for college, I attended at least one seder — some years both seders — at the Shieber household.
One year, my dad called them up in advance and asked if there was anything he could pick up for the seder. Rivka, the Shieber wife/mother/undisputed leader, said yes. So, as ordered, my dad reported to the kosher HEB (it’s a Texan grocery store chain, not a misspelling of Heeb) to pick up the whole smoked whitefish that Rivka had ordered from them.
And also a jar of nuts.
The fish was indeed entirely whole: skin, eyeballs, the whole nine yards. It was also completely stiff, and when laid down on one side its tail was cocked upward at 90 degrees: It would not fit in any of the available bags at HEB. The guy behind the counter tried to just sort of hand it to my dad. After some discussion it was crammed most of the way into the largest ziploc on hand, which was in turn put into a regular plastic grocery bag.
Also he picked up the jar of nuts.
The following day I was asked to please walk the fish — the whole smoked whitefish that did not fit in its bag and had its tail kinked up at right angle — over to the Sheibers.
And also could I please remember to take the jar of nuts with me.
It was difficult to carry because of it precarious situation in the bag that it didn’t really fit in. So I carried it laid flat across my two upturned hands.
And the jar of nuts was on top of the fish.
Along the way I passed walking the opposite direction a human being take for a walk by its dog. She gave me an odd look. Before she had a chance to realize I was looking at her and quickly glance somewhere else I said, “It’s a whole smoked whitefish. We borrowed it from the neighbors and now I’m bringing it back.”
I didn’t mention the jar of nuts.
I believe this whitefish procession has taken place during the week preceding Passover every year since. The other day my dad sent me this dispatch via email with the subject line “A Pesach miracle”:
I may have mentioned that the normal path of the Allandale Pesach Whitefish Parade has been blocked for months due to seemingly never-ending construction on Bull Creek Rd. As a matter of fact, I was fully prepared to cancel this year’s parade. But then, on the actual day of the parade, there was a parting of the barricades and a laying on of the asphalt and, behold, the parade route was re-established accompanied by loud noises from the heavens!
As there was much lightning and thunder in the area, our safety team advised us to to travel in a covered parade float lest the whitefish get smoked a second time. Turnout was lower than expected.