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Spring Cleaning


Once a year we clean out our kitchen — whether it needs it or not. No, seriously, it’s Passover time for us Jews and we take spring cleaning to a whole new level. At my house, we pack away our everyday dishes and replace them with our mismatched melange of well worn Passover tableware. We reclaim our pantry by purging every half-eaten box of Wheat Thins, stale stuck together bags of marshmallows, and near-empty jars of Trader Joe’s peanut butter. e scrub down the fridge, empty the freezer, wash out the silverware drawers. It’s a massive undertaking.

Passover has a lot of rules — what you’re allowed to eat, what you’re not, how you’re supposed to rid your home of “chametz” (the name given to all non-appropriate Passover food), your requirement to tell the Biblical story of Exodus to your children. It’s a heavy responsibility holiday if you try to follow it according to “Halakhah” (Jewish law).

And we do. At least we try. My kids eat special food, off of special plates, prepared in special pots and pans. I end up cooking almost non-stop for the entire weeklong festival, a task I’m not generally accustomed or predisposed to. The Passover story tells how the Jews left Egypt and were freed from decades of slavery. I sometimes wonder if my culinary servitude isn’t God’s way of offering me experiential understanding of my ancestors’ plight.

But in spite of the hard work and requisite effort this holiday demands, I love it. My fondest childhood memories are of Passover. I remember the mini
matzah-meal pancakes my mother used to make, the special Seders that lasted till midnight over which my grandfather, and later my beloved father, presided, the delicious fruit shaped jellies I craved all year long that now define the holiday for my two little boys. There’s something deep that connects me to my family, my community, and my past each spring when Passover arrives.

So I clean my cabinets, pack away my Blender, and get out my grandmother’s old recipes. I cry a lot too, remembering the innocence and wonder of those childhood years. I miss the people who make up my memories, and I feel sad that these joyous times will one day be merely a part of my kids’ recorded histories, like old home movies or a treasured tattered tablecloth.

I’m grateful that they will have the memories to connect them to me, to my husband, to their grandmothers. But the somber realization that time passes extraordinarily quickly these days is one that occupies my thoughts almost obsessively this time of year. It reminds me of an ancient bit of Jewish folklore that tells how King Solomon asked his wisest assemblymen to create a ring that will make him happy when he is sad and sad when he is happy. They created the ring with a simple saying etched into the gold: “Gam zeh ya’avor” or “This too shall pass.”

I wish you a meaningful Passover and Easter and wish for you the joy of good times and the melancholy of beautiful memories.

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About gettrich

Debra Rich Gettleman is a professional actor, playwright and journalist living in Seattle, WA with her husband Mark and two amazing boys, Levi and Eli.

One response to “Spring Cleaning

  1. Barry Shalen ⋅

    I remember those long sedars at grandma’s too. I passed on to my daughter, one of my most prized pieces of memorabilia … a puppet named Tiger that I got as a reward for tasting everything served one night some 50 odd years ago.
    Still, new traditions are great too, like the annual surprise Passover multi-media/theatrical productions put on by the Gettlemans each year! Savor the memories.

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