When I was a child, Seders seemed to last for eons. All my mother's family — my parents, my two uncles and their wives and children — were always present, because anything bubbe hosted was a command performance. The good linens, china, and silver made the table gleam under the light of bubbe's two candelabras.
We children were excited beyond hysteria until the ceremony began, and we were forced to come to the table and stop hanging upside down from the sofa, climbing the walls, and knocking down the furniture. I particularly enjoyed the presence of my cousins because I was an only child at the time, and lonely. My eldest cousin, three and a half years older than me, was a goddess of sophistication to me. Her brothers were rowdy playmates. Uncle Doc's little girls were too young to play with, but they were mighty cute and dressed to the nines.
Once the youngest child present had recited the four questions, the prayer competition began. Both my uncles and my cousin Bernie read the Haggadah aloud, individually and in Hebrew as quickly as they could. The conversation went like this:
Uncle I: It's time for the first (or second, third, or fourth) cup of wine.
Uncle II: I haven't gotten there yet. You read too fast.
Uncle I: It's a long service.
Uncle II: All right, all right. Come on everybody. Drink the fourth (or third, or second) cup. Where's the bottle? Pass me the wine, somebody.
They raced through the prayers and then had to stop and wait impatiently for the others to catch up. It was rather like riding in a car that alternately sped up and stopped dead, causing you to lurch forward and back.
Meanwhile, my cousin Sam, and sometimes one or two of the other children, would drink too much wine and slip quietly to the floor. It taught me the meaning of drinking yourself under the table. After a brief nap, the culprit would re-appear, refreshed.