It was the end of the fourth, and all eyes were on me.
That's the fourth question, of course. Although the unofficial fifth question (will she find the afikoman?) was on the minds of everyone in the room.
Most people's unofficial fifth question is "Who will find the afikoman?" But when you're the only child at the Seder year after year, no one wonders who. They only wonder when. Where. How. And in my case, if.
I admit it, hide and seek was never really my strong suit as a child. I usually preferred to play "hide and then tell me where you are when I become annoyed that I can't find you." Unfortunately, afikomans (dessert at the seder) can't speak up and tell you where they are. And my grandpa, who always hid the afikoman, wasn't talking either.
"Come on Grandpa, give me a hint," I begged. At this point, I had scoured our three-story house approximately 12,000 times. Probably more. I had flipped every cushion, looked under every bed, and triple-checked the inside of every cupboard. Nothing.
The adults, of course, thought this was hilarious. I shared an eye roll with the dog.
As I sat back down at the table, defeated, embarrassed, and wondering if I'd still get my $18 Barnes & Noble gift card (the one that was supposed to be guaranteed, since I didn't have any competition), it occurred to me that Grandpa's torso seemed a bit bulkier (and more . . . square . . .) than usual.
I looked closer.
It did not appear that Grandpa had worked out anytime during the Seder.
Being the loving, totally non-sneaky granddaughter I was, I brilliantly decided to go in for a hug. Everyone likes a good Passover hug.
Hmm. Grandpa felt rather-crumby. Interesting.
Finally putting the pieces together, I dramatically pulled his suit jacket open, and watched in amazement as the afikoman fell out.
Everyone laughed, and though I was relieved, I was not particularly amused.
I should've been happy-the precious Barnes & Noble gift card was secured, after all-but frustration lingered long after the dessert had been eaten. I searched high and low, near and far, and in some dark, disturbing places (a kid should never have to look through his/her parent's sock drawer for any reason), and it was in his jacket, at the table, the entire time? Seemed to me like a lot of wasted time and effort.
My mom, picking up on my subtle (okay, fine, not subtle) crankiness in the way that moms do, asked what I was so upset about, and I told her.
"But you found it," she said. "Who cares where it was or how long it took? You found it."
She was right. The more I thought about it that night-and additional nights later on-it didn't have to matter how long it had taken me. After all, it had taken the Jews 40 years to find their way out of the desert. While I'm sure they would have liked to skip 39.999 of those years and head right into their new lives as free people, I highly doubt they were moaning and groaning too much when their journey came to an end. They were likely pretty ecstatic to finally make it out of the desert, regardless of the disheartening amount of time it had taken. Also, that lengthy amount of time-in its own mysterious way-had probably made them even more grateful and appreciative when their journey ultimately concluded.
Of course, my afikoman adventure was obviously nowhere near the plight of the Jews in the desert in terms of levels of difficulty and aggravation, but thinking about the Passover story and what they endured helped put things in perspective. Would I have liked the afikoman to be easier to find? Absolutely. Would I have liked my search to take less time? Of course. Was I proud of myself for overcoming Dad's nasty socks and finding it anyway? Heck yes I was.
Passover reminds us to persevere in times of struggle. Whether it's a big wandering-through-the-desert type of struggle, a where-the-heck-is-that-darn-matzoh struggle, or anything in between, we have to trust that we'll eventually find what we're looking for, even if it takes longer than we'd like.
But, word to the wise: Always check your grandpa's jacket first.
Abby Cooper lives in Chicago and works as the library intern at Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School. She enjoys writing, reading, running, and eating the afikoman-plus a lot of other desserts.