I know Pessach probably seems like a fleeting memory of the past for some, but it is still very clear in my mind.
Partially because my husband and I are so cheap, we are still working on polishing off our last box of Shmura Matzah three weeks after pessach (Hey... for $20.99 a box we'll get our money's worth thank you very much!) and partially because it was the very first Pessach I made by myself as a married woman.
(It would be nice if I could say my last... but I won't go that far.)
Pessach is a wonderful holiday. I am not knocking it. Pessach evokes some of the greatest family memories -- sitting around the Seder table, my husband's precious marror, my precious charoses, stomach aches from the matzah and wine, all the interesting tunes during Nirtzah... you all know.
On the other hand, Pessach is a heart-breaker. It really brings out the man (or the woman, I should say) in you. I heard someone say this year that all women deserve a gold medal after pessach - for all the work before during and even after the holiday.
Finally, my mother likened preparing for Pessach to running a marathon... and boy was she right.
My experience went something like this:
I must start off by saying the sweat and tears of preparing for pessach were not my own. They were also my sister Rachelli's. Rachelli came to Des Moines for the week prior to Pessach to... well... help me make Pessach. I hadn't done one thing before that one week marker for better or for worse. Growing up in a house where chametz can only be eaten in the kitchen or dining room the day after Purim, this made me a bit nervous. On the other hand, we had one week in boot camp. One week to turn my three bedroom house (in which two kids under the age of two live, in which cherios, graham crackers, pretzels, and bagles can be found all over the house, in the very strangest places) upside down. I was ready - sort of.
Our game plan was to do as much as we can while both kids napped and while they slept at night. Knowing my history of crashing at precisely 9:00 PM when hopefully both kids are down the for the night, this was a bit difficult. But we did it. I don't think I ever bossed my sister around as much as I did that week. I made her clean, wash, fold, vacuum, move furniture. You name it, she did - but so did I. We made a great team. Not to meantion her method of payment was watching American Idol, Gossip Girl, and One Tree Hill while we cleaned. That and some ice cream and unlimited access to my laptop. Hey, a girl's gotta work for a price... I respect that.
Favorite memory: taking pictures of me sitting INSIDE the fridge and freezer in our garage cleaning it out. Least favorite memory: acting like some professional weight lifter and lifting couches while vacuuming at the same time.
Somehow, we did it. We finished it off with toveling new pots and utensils, covering the counters, oven, stovetop, and fridge - and finally looked around at our hard work with content smiles.
(In case you were wondering, I didn't mention the food part since my saintly mother cooked a storm for me when I was in Detroit two weeks prior to Pessach. Since we were having almost 20 guests from Josh's school for our second seder, my mother didn't want me to worry about cooking. It's a good thing I didn't have to - because... superwoman or not -- there's only so much I can do. Even with an all star sister like Rachelli.)
So, it was the day of Bedikas Chametz - and we had a Kosher for pessach house! Which was quite important, because I forgot to mention that my sister in law had a baby boy in Silver Spring whose Bris was two days before Pessach. Missing her and the family as badly as I did and wanting to be apart of the Simcha - I flew in and out of Silver Spring within 24 hours with Yehuda to be at the Bris. It was a bit crazy...but no regrets, I'm glad I went. I wouldn't have been able to do it though if Rachelli and I hadn't worked so hard the week before.
So - back in town and ready for Pessach. After some marror grinding, professional charoses making, and romain lettuce checking - we were set to go!
The first seder was just me and Josh. It was lovely. Can you imagine having a seder with JUST two people? I was actually the one egging us on to continue talking through Maggid. We were great. Engrossed in coversation, eating our matzah and marror, doing our thing. (However, after the meal, I must admit that I was too tired to continue and we pretty much said Hallel and Nirtzah to ourselves. And when Josh told me to search for the Afikomen after a brutal week and a half leading up to that very Seder I simply looked at him and said, "you've got to be kidding.")
Second Seder was a different story. Since Josh is the Vice President of the Jewish club at DMU, we had approximately 18 guests for our seder, including Josh's Jewish advisor. It was a whirlwind - but it was incredible! Josh and I were so thrilled to allow his fellow students to experience a genuine Orthodox seder. You could tell some of the students had memories of sederim from their childhood - and others were experiencing it for the first time. We laughed, we ate Matazh, drank some wine, said a little Maggid, and ate a huge feast. Naturally, the guests peetered out after dessert, which was fine with me and Josh. (We went ahead and said Hallel and Nirtzah to ourselves once again.)
The amount of food was offensive, but hey, it was a traditional Orthodox seder, right?
Josh was on such a high when it was over. Some students stayed after everyone left to ask us questions and talk a little more about Judaism. He felt so accomplished and proud of us as a family. He got all frum and said, "Hashem may have sent us to Des Moines just to have this Seder!!!" You know what, he may be right.
So what I've learned from my first Pessach: Gather your patience and your stamina - and grab your favorite sister to give you a hand! All the sweat and tears are worth it because even if you're having a seder with just two people, or inviting 20 non religious guests - or both in my case -- Pessach is a beautiful thing and it really brings people together.
I think with each year I'll become more confident in preparing the house and actually cooking all the food. And maybe even say Hallel and Nirtzah aloud :)