Three hundred and forty eight days a year, my kitchen welcomes take out on one set of dishes. On Pesach, I just can’t shake tradition. Why?
Every year it takes me by surprise. Just as my shopping cart takes a hard right toward the Chips Ahoy, I see them — Manischewitz, Yehuda and Streit’s. Stacked high and disguised in their pretty packaging, these bulk boxes of matzoh mean one thing.
In a few weeks, my life will change: Pesach is coming. Soon, I will be cleaning, cooking and changing dishes in preparation for eight days like none other. Three hundred and forty eight days a year, my kitchen welcomes take out on one set of dishes. On Pesach, I just can’t shake tradition. Why?
Gratefully, I attribute this to my loving parents, grandparents, aunt and uncle. Their devotion to Passover traditions have created magical memories that those of us in the less-observant younger generations now cling to. Integral to that magic are the mysterious Passover dishes.
During the days of chumatz, my parents’ Passover dishes reside dormant in a white metal cabinet in a garage corner. Their annual kitchen appearance is a welcome reunion. Admittedly, each year I open the care-worn cabinet doors and joyfully greet the familiar green depression glass and seder plates — out loud, literally. They are my old and loyal friends, a tangible reminiscence of the seder table that I have shared with family for 55 years. The dishes represent a sincere love and commitment for Passover and all of its trimmings
First seder night is like none other for my family. Time has seen the table joyfully expand with spouses, in-laws, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. An emptiness is also felt for those who are no longer with us and the uncertainty of how this table will change in years to come.
The unspoken rule is that first seder is a nonnegotiable holiday. In other words, before you step under that chuppah make it clear that first seder belongs to us. All wonderful new families are welcome. But please give them fair warning; we use the Maxwell House Hagaddah.
My Passover connection went visceral when my only aunt downsized from her Northeast Philadelphia home to an apartment. It was not surprising that among the strongest emotional ties to her home for over 50 years were her beloved Passover dishes. There was no room to store them in her new apartment. She was resigned to let them go and this was clearly breaking her heart. That’s when I visualized the pasadika bumper sticker that read “Save the Passover Dishes!”
I could do this. Saving these dishes was a perfect chance to show my appreciation. Payback, if you will, for years of birthday presents and cards sent to every family member every year. She’s never missed one. My special aunt has been there for every one of our family’s milestones, sharing the joys and the sorrows. She’s the reason that I take my role as aunt to 14 nieces and nephews so seriously. It really does matter.
The mission began. Together in her familiar Northeast Philadelphia basement, my cousins, my mother and I packed up the Passover treasures. We laughed and cried as we traveled down Passover memory lane. The dishes, along with an assortment of kitchen supplies, were carefully packed and placed in my car, filling it to the brim.
As the holiday approaches each year, my aunt’s apartment becomes kosher for Passover. She can observe the holiday in all its fullness in her new abode. It is a team effort that allows the magic of the holiday to continue for her. Now If I only could say “abracadabra” and get all of the cleaning done.