It's Passover season, and for days I've been baking, chopping, sautéing, and fussing. Even though we're not hosting the traditional seder - the ritual meal that leads us through the story of the liberation of our ancestors in Egypt - I still feel a matriarchal responsibility to deliver more food than we can possibly eat to our youngest daughter, who won the hosting role by default. She happens to have the largest dining room of any of us.
Along with Jews around the world, we'll celebrate the spiritual significance of the holiday and the embrace of family.
But this year, there's an elephant in the room - a sense of unease, something ominous that our Jewish friends are feeling, too.
My husband and I can't pinpoint precisely when reports of a resurgence of global anti-Semitism began demanding our attention.
Yet we both can still remember when our parents and grandparents would lower their voices - or stop talking altogether - when the "kinder" walked in. Despite that desire to spare us, they ultimately couldn't. Grasping those unfathomable losses was part of our growing up Jewish.
And, now, that same sense of something deeply unsettling has returned.
As it happens, this has been a roller-coaster year for us because of the death of my sister's significant other. George was a child survivor of the Holocaust. So that history was a part of him - permanent and unrelenting - and became a part of us.
Our grandchildren had known George all their lives, and that somehow made the Holocaust more real to them. But not until recently has it meant so much more.
Jonah, the 18-year-old family philosopher, recently said out of the blue that he wished he had talked to George more about what it was like to be despised as a Jew. He's also been thinking - and worrying much more, Jonah says - about being Jewish in our own country.
Our oldest grandsons, cousins Sam and Zay, who go to the same small Boston college, proudly identify as Jewish and have spent time in Israel. Their suitemates are a diverse racial and religious mix. So far, so good.
But they are now aware of the desecrations of Jewish cemeteries, threats to Jewish public buildings, swastikas cropping up, and the proliferation of hate crimes.
And now come the sobering statistics that in New York City, where granddaughter Hannah is carving out her first year of postcollege life, the police department reports that anti-Semitic incidents are up 94 percent over this same period last year.
I read that several times, thinking it must be a misprint.
Then came a recent statement from the World Jewish Congress suggesting that "America's Jews have every right to be nervous."
It all hits home, and really felt like a punch recently when sweet Carly, our youngest grandchild - who loves the world and assumes it loves her back - was suddenly wary of stepping inside our local Jewish Community Center, a place she has always loved. When she took in the hard-to-miss new safety and security measures, she steadfastly refused to go into the building with me.
Carly, at 12, has lost her innocence about where she feels safe - and where she doesn't. It broke my heart.
Of course, it can be argued that now, more than ever, we need to come together as Jews in public places.
It means more now than ever to share our deep and powerful links in the endless chain that binds us one to the other. But try telling that to a kid who watches the evening news.
Still, just as in years past, this Passover we will repeat rituals and readings that are woven into our traditions. Ironically, one of the recurrent themes of Passover is, "Why is this night different from all other nights?"
But perhaps many of us will be asking, "Why does this year feel so different from all other years?"
Will we someday look back at Passover 2017 as a kind of watershed?
I want to believe that, once again, our seder will be the place where hope, plans, and memories collide in happy, noisy confusion.
I will look forward to the sobering reading of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, the one that always marks the end of our seder. I'll be reflective as I hear the familiar words about freedom - and its opposite - ring out in Nancy's dining room.
Most of all, I hope that the words never again, uttered repeatedly and passionately since the Nazi Holocaust, will ring true.