It’s that time of year again. The season is here when we see the advertisements for Pesach programs. Most of us are still sweeping away the crumbs from hamantaschen!
At one time, the stereotypical spring-break locales — think Florida, Arizona, Mexico, and the Caribbean — used to own the Passover hotel game. But lately, the options have increased and they are far more exotic than what we may have become accustomed to. Morocco, Australia, South Africa, Monaco, and Brazil number among them.
From my personal perspective, it almost appears that Pesach is being celebrated everywhere but the area in which I live. I’m waiting to see an ad that reads: “Passover 2019 in Woodmere.” This is unlikely, though some of us will indeed celebrate the holiday right here. I spend every yom tov at the home of one of my children. If I were years younger and would be having Passover in my house, my response to these ads would undoubtedly be dramatically different. I would be saying that I love Pesach and would miss the Seder but that there are some things I could do without. I never liked “turning over the house,” which is how we refer to the process of making a home kosher for Pesach. Back when Pesach was celebrated at my place, I would also say that I could live without all the menu planning and the resultant shopping and cooking.
These days I don’t do much work for the chag. My beloved daughters do it all. On behalf of them and all the other women (and some men) who will be crazy-busy, it irks me when I see those vacation ads. Doesn’t anyone stay home anymore? Going away for this yom tov does have advantages. It’s definitely a pleasure not to have to do any serving and an even greater joy not to be stuck cleaning up and washing pots and pans. But, to be fair, there are other considerations that contribute to the advantages of staying home. How much fun can it be to have a Seder in a communal dining room with other families sitting nearby? It just doesn’t have the same flavor.
It’s true that in the early days of our marriage, when Hubby and I did go away for Pesach, life was easier. But after a few years, we stopped participating in the hotel scene and spent most Passover holidays at home. What I remember is that whenever we were at a hotel I wished we were at home and when we were at home, I wished we had gone away. There’s no pleasing some people!
Now that I’m a senior citizen — a very senior citizen — I’m delighted that I don’t go away and instead spend Pesach right where I live. This makes me something of a “knakker” (a Jewish wise-guy) because I don’t spend the holiday in my own house but at the homes of my children. I don’t have to do the “turn over” or the meal planning, the shopping or the cooking. I do help to clear the table at the end of each Seder, but that’s about it. The only other possible credit I can take is that I provide entertainment for the troops. I deliver the wisecracks and tell funny stories, causing my grandchildren to laugh like crazy. This is a two-way street, because they laugh at my antics and my tales and I laugh when I see them laughing. Under other circumstances, my children would also laugh, but they’re too tired for laughter. So they spend most of the time yawning and, in between the yawning, they occasionally look at one another and roll their eyes. I enjoy that as much as anything else. Nothing tickles me like a good eye roll! Now and then they’re unable to help themselves and I can hear a soft chuckling from their corner of the table. Their chuckles are soft because they don’t want to encourage me, so they try to be discreet about enjoying my spiels and my performance. However, despite my failing hearing, I hear it.
There is much that I love about Pesach, especially being with my children and my grandchildren. In addition to what they learn and share with us, there is the enthusiastic singing that we all participate in at the end of the Seder. After that, my grandkids and I hang out in the den. This crowd rarely includes their parents because by then they are totally exhausted and have already headed to bed.
Food is a big part of Pesach, too, and while there are some food items I can live without, other foods are a treat. My personal favorite — after matzah farfel saturated with fried onions and mushrooms — is shemurah matzah. There is nothing better than that matzah, and, given the cost of it, I try not to waste a single piece regardless of how small the piece might be. But my favorite bite of that matzah is the morning after the Seder when I can shmear it with butter and, in spite of blood-pressure issues, sprinkle it with salt.
The salt I add only after I surreptitiously glance around to be sure my kids are not looking in my direction. Salt and hypertension are not a good combo, but I do what so many other hypertensives do — I tell myself that it’s OK since I do it only once a year. Admittedly, this isn’t the wisest of philosophies because, actually, I consume salt more often than that. But that’s the way it is.
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-295-4435.