Frogs newest addition to Seder

I never thought I’d be writing about frogs for Pesach. But they seem to be the latest rage for amusing kids at the Seder table.
In a way, I guess that if you have to involve children through a plague, frogs are the natural choice. Some of the others are just too grisly to mention, like water turning to blood and firstborn being slain. Cattle disease and boils would be hard to play with, and insects like lice and flies and locusts aren’t even so “cute” to look at.
We might actually sit through thunder and lighting, and possibly even experience darkness if a storm shuts down our electricity, but we don’t invite them to sit on our tables (although Martha Stewart has somehow managed to turn every plague into a toy of sorts — just Google her to see them for yourself).
I got into this during my recent hometown trip. I paid a ritual visit to the flagship store of Pittsburgh’s most-beloved supermarket chain — which happens to be the privately owned venture of a local Jewish family that heavily supports both its city and its faith. As such, this “Giant Eagle,” in a central location convenient to the metropolitan area’s several large Jewish enclaves, draws enough customers to have all of what we see in Dallas’ Preston-Forest Tom Thumb, only more, and larger!
So when I walked in the main door, the first thing I saw — before even getting close to the extensive kosher foods departments — was FROGS! A huge display, front and center, featured Pesach dishes for kids, and books, and many amusements still good fun for the whole week after keeping peace and quiet at the Seder table. But most of them were frog-themed: stuffed animals and finger puppets and other what-have-yous.
I would have none! I haven’t been lucky enough to entertain small children at my Seder table in years, but when there were some, it was long before this frog era, which seems to have exploded recently into very big business. And we managed quite well — thank you! — with other diversions, many of which revolved around how to steal and hide the afikomen.
That’s right! Steal and hide! For those of you of later eras (as most of you are — I understand that), kids of my generation and some that followed used to wait until Zeide or whoever was at the head of the table got up from his cushioned chair to wash his hands, and that’s when they grabbed and did away with that essential closing act of the Passover drama. Of course, the patriarch of the evening allowed plenty of handwashing time because he knew what the children were all about — that was part of the game. Later, when he had moaned long enough that he couldn’t find it, but he needed that matzo to finish the Seder, it was returned to him for payment — gelt, of course, carefully negotiated, but to be handed over only when it was kosher to touch money again. (Believe me — no one was ever allowed to forget those written-in-advance promissory notes.)
This custom phased out a long time before the idea of grownups hiding the afikomen for kids to find came in. But I have good memories. So I bypassed the frogs in favor of two modern miniature Seder plates for my two great-grandsons to enjoy at their other Boubby’s table. For two-plus Gingy, a round cloth version with a pocket in back to store the six soft “stuffed” foods that sit on their appropriately pictured places. And for 5-year-old Lex, a heavy cardboard magnetized one that features little knobs on the food pieces to encourage some real dexterity in young fingers.
I won’t be there to see if anyone brings frogs to the table. But although I’m sorry that I’ll have to miss that Seder, I may actually be glad to be here instead of finding out!

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