Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pesach in the Holy Land

Subtitle: My first chag as an Israeli

Pesach is one of those holidays that is so darn family-centered. Growing up my parents, sisters, and I always went upstate with my father's parents, my aunt, uncle, and cousin (my dad's sister and her family), and my mom's parents (my mom is an only child). And there were 12 of us in the house, plus the dog-- Bubby and Zaidy (my dad's parents)'s room, my aunt and uncle's room, my family's room, and my Grandma and Grandpa (my mom's parents)'s room. The kids all slept in in their parent's rooms/in the couch when passed out from exhaustion at the seder.
We had our traditions-- the kids rotated setting the table/serving/cleaning up; 2 kids per seder and the rest of the meals were 1 child each. My mom brought the European kiddush cups for the seder, four of them in four different sizes. There were originally 3 in the set from my great-grandparents, and then a fourth one was added from a family friend. Only the largest two were big enough to actually have enough wine from, but we used them anyway. My Zaidy, my Grandpa, my dad, and my uncle each had a seder plate, and everyone had their own kiddush cup. My Zaidy's was red/maroon glass, my Grandpa's kiddush cup was green with a glass insert, my dad's was silver with his name, and my uncle's was silver also. My cousin had his own, too, also silver. My Bubby, Grandma, and aunt used glass ones, and my mom and sisters and I used the European cups and sometimes supplemented with other cups.
The way Pesach went in my house was a couple of weeks before Pesach, my parents would go upstate and bring stuff up, and then a few days before my Bubby and Zaidy would go up and supervise the cleaning lady. In our house in the city we would clean and get the house Pesachdik because my dad came back over chol hamoed to work. My Grandpa made the charoset in our house, with my little sister and I as taste testers; mostly wine, but he always made one container with grape juice.
We would all get upstate, and my Bubby and Zaidy would already be there, usually my aunt, uncle, and cousin as well, and my Bubby would be making chremzel (matzah meal pancakes) for us to eat. We would unload in between eating, saying hi, and petting the dog.
Once everything was in and we were ready to get ready for the seder, my Grandma would do the eggs, whoever was on duty for the seder would set the table with my Bubby, my Bubby would make the salad, my mom would be heating the food up, and my aunt would be doing the seder plates and whatnot. Everyone was doing something.
Then the guys came home from shul. Treasure would let us know. Eventually the guys would pick their matzahs, everyone would end up with a Haggadah (usually the same ones, although it always took 20 minutes to pick...), and we would start. Zaidy made kiddush, the Grandpa, then my dad, then my uncle, then BZ. For Karpas, my Bubby would make the salt water (with pepper too) and put it in two white bowls with the same cups every year. Once Yachatz happened, we (the kids) would tell our fathers/grandfathers that we would "keep" the afikomen safe and make sure it was in a safe place until the end of the seder. My BZ took his dad's, and us girls (my sisters and I) would split up between my dad, Zaidy, and Grandpa. Usually my dad gave it to my mom to hold and Lis got it; Andrea got Grandpa's because she sat next to him, and I got my Zaidy's. Once Andrea got married and went to Seder with Yoni's family, I took Grandpa's. And we would go through the seder, reading and talking. Ma Nishtana, Lis and BZ did. We used to do the multi-lingual thing, but then it got tiring. Of course there were the classic moments of, "And the rasha says, 'What kind of crap is this?'" and divrei Torah and comments interspersed in Maggid and in-between. Motzei everyone did on their own-- but until that happened... We got to shulchan orech-- no matter who was on duty, I served soup. My thing was soup. Is soup (as in, I know what everybody in my family wants and can tell you-- clear soup, veggies, no veggies, only certain veggies, noodles, kneidel, how's kinda freaky/cool). Then came tzafun, aka negotiations. We used to negotiate individually, but eventually we all (all 4 of us cousins) negotiated together as a group, on one night for both sedarim. It was a game: we would hide the afikoman, we would say we won't give it back, my dad would threaten to eat another piece of matzah instead and not wait for the afikoman and we would talk to my Zaidy. Grandpa always agreed right away, or before my Grandma died he would "consult" with her. But it was just so much fun. As the seder went on, though, there would be different people "taking breaks" by falling asleep on the couch or going to their beds. At Hallel and Nirtzah, we would go around during Echad Mi Yodeah and Adir Hu, etc., taking turns reading. If I close my eyes-- actually, I don't have to, I can just picture it-- I can still hear almost hear my Grandma's voice, and I can still see and hear my Grandpa reading from the large print Haggadah in his English-Hungarian accent. I miss it. I miss them.
After Grandma died it wasn't the same-- close, but still felt her missing. And then Andrea got married and they were by us once, but after that went to the hotel. And last year Grandpa died so that was one less person at the table. And this year...well, this year, I wouldn't be there, my aunt and uncle came to Israel because BZ is here for the year, and so my Bubby and Zaidy and parent and Lis would have been the only ones. And that's depressing. So Bubby, Zaidy, my parents, and Lis went to the hotel and they're going to get to spend the Seder with Andrea and Yoni and Squishy-- one, at least. The other seder they're doing with Yoni's family.

I'm having a hard-ish time. Remember how my mom didn't want me to be lonely? I'm not lonely, but I do miss my family and friends back in NY. I think I feel it a little more acutely because of the break-up and not having that person like before, but it's also the first time I'm away from my family and missing the real traditions that we do every year and the...just the home and family. Sukkot isn't as much, because I went away for the last days anyway so it was kind of whatever. But Pesach-- we were all together. And there was always too much food and too many drinks and everyone getting on each other's nerves and being in and out and...this Pesach is going to be hard. Good, nice, different, but hard.

I also realized that I can't not live in Israel, but I definitely left someone I very well could have married. I'm having a bit of a down moment.

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