With the holiday over and the guests gone, my wife and I put away our Pesach things for storage. The plastic bins we keep them in are easy to carry and stack. Each is clearly marked: Fleischig, Pareve, and so on. Off the table and into the containers go the dishes, cups, glasses, cutlery, then down to the basement until next year.
Pesach stirs up memories even more than other holidays do. Stuffed in among the dishes and glassware are odds and ends left over from various childhoods: colored glasses that used to be part of some long-dismantled set; stray unmatched forks and spoons; a truly ugly matza cover someone’s relative once made (whose?); the red top of a glass nut grinder I once used to make haroset before food processors came along. None of these is of any use, but all of them are too hard to throw away. Anyhow, they don’t take up much room.
Haggadot, of course, contain a lot of history, the personal along with the national. Different illustrations of the four sons (each generation’s rasha is always the most interesting), childish scrawls by children now grown up with kids of their own. And of course stains of all kinds: wine, haroset, ketchup.
The seder (sedarim, out here in galut) bring back family memories, though often unshared. You may have told them before, and others are preoccupied with their own recollections. One of my childhood favorites happened the year Stan, a congregant of my father alav hashalom, was jailed for white-collar crime. When we opened the door for Eliyahu, we found instead Stan, who had just been sprung from a minimum security prison in Danbury, Connecticut. Free at last!
This year, several of our grandchildren joined us, a special treat. Each had his or her own haggada, which their teachers helped them prepare. The haggadot of the younger ones had pop-up pictures. Those of the older ones were filled with comments on the Pesach story, with which they livenedup our Maggid. It occurred to me that so much that we do during the seder is supposed to be “so the children should ask,” whereas at our table these nights the children were not being taught; they were doing the teaching.
Things do not always work out the way you thought they would. Sometimes they work out better.
My grandson spilled wine on his brand-new haggada. We congratulated him on the milestone.
As our packing proceeds, my wife says, “Look through the haggadot. See if there are any you want to give away.”
We store our overflow supply of haggadot, the ones that don’t fit in our living-room bookcase, in two blue plastic bins, each about two-thirds full. Haggadot proliferate like rabbits, or, perhaps more aptly, like bentchers. Our collection has already been culled more than once, down to these two bins.
I open the first. Here is a haggada from a leading American rabbi, famed for his sermons. No doubt he has many good insights, but I will never have time to read them. Here is another from an Israeli rabbi, formerly American. I think I looked through it once, though I don’t remember anything specific he had to say.
Here is something interesting: two menus. One is from an Israeli hotel we stayed at several years ago. My chief recollection of that visit is that the hotel’s elevator broke repeatedly, leaving my walker-and-wheelchair-bound mother stranded on the second floor. As for the seder itself, I remember being unable to hear either the leader or myself. I had forgotten that the main course was a “Duet of Steak Esterhazi with Pepper Sauce and Roast Spring Chicken Skewer in Szechuan Sauce.” Quite the international duet. I don’t recall whether it was any good.
And here is another menu, this one from an American hotel that overlooks the Atlantic in Maine. The Entrees that particular day featured “English Cut Medallions of Beeff.” Harei ani k’ven shiv’im shana, behold, I am pushing 70, and it seems that once in my life I had the merit to eat not brisket, but Beeff.
I stop looking through the bin and put everything back. The memories attached to each of these books and slips of paper are mine, though I seem to have forgotten to remember them. Still, they are personal, and I cannot bring myself to throw them out. Others will take care of that. Memories are easier to set aside when they are once-removed. Besides, they don’t take up too much room.
At the end of each yom tov my mother always says, Mir zoll’n derleben iber a yohr, may we live another year and do it again. Pesach is once again put away, now with a few new things to remember. Next year we’ll unpack it again and try to conjure them up.