Archive for April 7th, 2009

Why I Have No Inspiring Passover Piece

Sharon April 7th, 2009

Every year in the spring I get requests for Passover pieces.  Don’t I want to write about freedom, justice, the parallels between….could I do a piece on food storage and passover…would I…  And every single year I assiduously ignore them.  In principle, I absolutely agree that the Passover story and the practicalities of dealing with large quantities of chametz (the stuff you don’t eat during the holiday) during Pesach merit discussion.  In principle I agree that the Passover story is a deep well from which to draw text.  And I’ve written pieces for lesser Jewish holidays - Shemini Atzaret (no, this one will not be on the quiz), Tu B’Shevat, Chanukah, Sukkot, Purim.  Shouldn’t I do Pesach?

 In practice, between cleaning the house for Pesach (those of you who are not Jewish, and those of you who have not been to my house will have no sense of the scale of trying to get every bleeding crumb off the floor, out of the corners, off my children….), getting organized and preparing, as is typical, to go away to visit family, plus dealing with the annual Passover crisis (which is inevitable) means that, well, I got nothin’.

The Passover crisis is a rule in our family.  Something bizarre must happen to make all the preparation extra-difficult.  It could be illness (we’ve had strep and stomach viruses), it could be the weather (we’ve had late snowstorms and floods), it could be a good thing that simply sucks up our time (my book deadline last year, a friend’s wedding the day before Pesach) but whatever happens, it means that there is no orderly, even Passover preparation, just volumes of chaos.  There was the year I spent Passover sumping out the basement, staying behind while Eric and the boys went to New York City, to tend the floodwaters during melt off.  Worst of all was the year that Eric’s grandmother fell down a flight of stairs at her cousin’s during Pesach, and died a few days later.  I hate to put something as big as that in with the others, but as Gilda Radner used to say “Its always something!”

This year was no different.  We had planned a complex itinerary for what was to be our only trip before Selene’s kids are due.  First, we would go visit family and friends in Boston, and then to New York, with assorted other stops in transit.  There were no fewer than three different people helping us with different animal arrangements, as well as multiple travel dates (I was coming back early), and the involvement of half a dozen other people in scheduling.  Each day was mapped out pretty much hourly to maximize time with beloved family and friends.

The day before we left, we were a little worried, in between the frantic final cleanings, laundry and packing.  Eli seemed, well, subdued.  He had no temperature, no symptoms, he was just quiet and tired and a little off his feed.  Was he sick?  The visit to Boston involved several newborn babies, and we could not go if any illness was detected.  But in the morning Eli was back to normal, and we managed to convince ourselves it was nothing.

We drove four long hours to Boston, with a stop at Old Sturbridge Village on a cold, rainy day.  Arriving late in the afternoon, following two weeks of non-stop cleaning and organizing, my Eric and I could hardly wait to sit, drinking a glass of wine with my family, meet the new babies (which I’ve seen but no one else has), enjoy an evening out (with in house free babysitting), and other delights. 

Within half an hour after our arrival, Simon threw up all over my mother’s floor.  Ooops, it turns out that perhaps Eli was under the weather after all.  So much for delights. After some hasty consultation, we grumpily determined that since my mother was childcare provider for one of the babies, we couldn’t expose her to illness, and that our visit would result in virtual quarantine, since no one could come see us.  So, those of us who wanted to eat, ate dinner, we got in the car, and we drove four more hours home (for the record, we don’t customarily drive 8 hours for dinner).

By the time we hit Danvers (my mother lives in Beverly), Isaiah had thrown up all over the car.  By the time we hit home, my limbs were permanently numbed (our little car is not very comfortable when all six of us are in it, and 8 hours in it is a new record) and Eric and I were driving each other crazy by imagining what we could be doing instead of riding home in the vomit-scented car.  The next day we were all cranky, the kids were recovering, it was raining icily and everyone was exhausted from the late night trip.  The following day Eric and I were sick, and spent the day trying (and sort of failing) to be noble about whose turn it was to go lie down. 

I know that I ought to write something inspiring about freedom, dayenu, the four questions, food storage and Moses.  Or something.  But I just can’t pull it off.  Every year I plan a Pesach piece.  Every year I fail.  It is perhaps my own personal Dayenu - it is enough, most years, simply to make it to the seder table in whatever condition.  It is enough we’re all here.  It is enough that we’re ready for a week of matzah, enough that we will be recovered from our illness before we encounter my MIL’s brisket, enough that we made it to the holiday.  It isn’t always good to expect too much.

 A good holiday to all of you celebrating this week!