Two days before Leil haseder, the Passover Big Event and I am finished for the evening. My dishes are down from the attic, my food is purchased, and the house is cleaned. Tomorrow begins the race against time and the nonstop cooking.
My girls watched tonight as I poured boiling water on all surfaces, cleaned the refrigerator again, and left the fires burning on the stove. They asked why and of course I explained. While Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the two holidays which I most connect with my father, Passover is an estrogen filled event.
My mother, grandmother and savta all figure prominently. My sister and I too have strong supporting roles. I cannot think of Pesach without the smell of gribenes frying, my mother cooking, and my grandmother issuing orders (oops! directions) from the table.
The Manishevitz white matzah cartons hauled up from the basement with all the dishes and utensils; all of which have a story; the wooden chopping bowl and chopper for the charoset, which has been my annual contribution since I can remember, the cast iron grinder that weighs a ton that belonged to my mother’s grandmother; the one that locked onto the countertop and ground the chicken livers for the chopped liver, all the crystal wine goblets which also belonged to my mother’s grandmother, and especially, the one with etched grapes on it which was “mine” every year.
Pesach is my favorite time of year; the change of weather to spring, the nearness of summer and vacation, the birth of new flowers, leaves, and just the newness of it. Changing the house over was always exciting for me.
Seven years ago, I decided that if I could do twins on my own, I could take on Seder. The first couple of years we ordered food. About four years ago, my mom and I took over the cooking. My mom and I are very different in the kitchen: I am neat, organized and fast. She is slow, methodical, makes an absolute mess and her food is amazing. No matter how perfect it is, she always finds fault with it. I am a decent cook, slightly above average even, but I don’t have the time or patience to spend the day in the kitchen. Everything is tasty but not like her food. Like they say on the cooking shows you can taste her love and passion in every bite.
She isn’t here this year. They aren’t coming. This is the third time in my life that I am alone on Pesach. No matter how many people will be here (twelve) no matter how much they mean to me (a lot), no matter how many sedarim we’ve all done together (seven) they’re not my parents. While I know my girls will continue with our traditions, it just isn’t the same without them. Hearing those stories all through my childhood has instilled in me a sense of tradition and family and continuity. I will do my best to share the stories with my kids but I don’t have the treasures and the artifacts to back them up. The chopping bowl is probably somewhere in my mom’s basement still as might be the grinder. But it isn’t the same as taking it out and using it. “My” wine glass broke and my new wine glass isn’t the same. Without Bubby and Saba it will be nice but not HOME.
This holiday, reminds me of my trek through motherhood. It is hard. There is a lot of work and a lot of cooking, cleaning, preparing, changing, sorting, and repeat. But that is part of what makes it so special. That you get to the other side. That you’ve created something that is impossible to recreate: memories. This is what I believe is what I give my kids in addition to love, hugs, nurturing and education. I give them a past, a context, a story and memories for life. My childhood memories of holidays with our family are a tremendous gift and give me strength and hope. Our seder is very important to me because it gives them that; something to remember for a lifetime.
I am just so sad my parents aren’t going to be here to enjoy it with us and the girls won’t be able to share it with them this year.
Wishing you all a beautiful, meaningful and memory laden seder. Chag sameach