Sending warm Easter and Passover holiday wishes to everyone who celebrates. May it be a peaceful and joyous season for everyone!
One of my warmest childhood memories is of helping my mother change over the dishes for Passover every year. My parents’ marriage was a perfect union of the observant (my mother) and the secular (my father). My mother was devoted to tradition and religious guidelines. My father maintained a calm but distant skepticism about it all. So the children became her helpers, dish-wise.
She had two sets of dishes, one for dairy and one for meat. So four sets in all, two regular plus two for Passover. One of the bedrooms downstairs in our split-level suburban house had been designated as The Storage Room (that’s what we called it) and yikes, it was the one disaster implosion zone we had. Every year we’d have to remove boxes and appliances and whatever other detritus had been stored there during the prior year to find the box of dishes marked “Passover”. The contents weren’t anything special — no need to spend much money on dishes that would be used only for 8 days a year — but I loved them for their simplicity. The dishes were white Melmac (remember those?) with a green wreath around the edge. There were also a handful of plastic utensils and even separate dish towels and dish drainers, everything in pink. Pink! Every year I looked forward to unpacking the items one by one and discovering them all over again, like reuniting with old friends.
It’s funny how these are the kind of memories that stick with us in such detail, isn’t it? If I close my eyes I can can feel the rubbery texture of the dish drainers and remember the maneuevers it took to rearrange the boxes to find what we needed. I suspect, now, that I was smaller and more agile than my mother, so she would send me into that room to find the box. Or maybe the disorder in there felt so chaotic that she’d recruit me — who didn’t mind — to face it the same way I might ask my daughters to retrieve something from our garage. (also known as the Bermuda Triangle of my house, where everything goes to get lost. Also, I’m mouse phobic and at certain times of year our garage = the possibility of a mouse.)
When you’re a child, whatever your family does seems normal, so changing over two sets of dishes for a week and then changing them back was, to me, just the way things were done. But now I can recognize my mother’s sense of duty to her faith, and realize the effort that went into not just changing dishes but also clearing out the kitchen of leavened bread and stocking the pantries with kosher for Passover food. The thought of doing this every year in the fast-paced, 21st century overwhelms me a little, to be honest. So I can appreciate her, this week of all weeks, for her commitment to tradition and for making the turnover a fun, family affair.
The Storage Room? We finally cleared it out when my father moved from the house in 1994-ish. And yes, it was a job of all jobs.
We had a designated Junk Drawer in the kitchen, too, and we called it that, but that’s a story for another time.