My Passover Catharsis
Cindy Chazan is Vice President and Alumni and Community Development for The Wexner Foundation. Cindy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How ironic that this column is being written before Passover only to be read in an issue that will come after the holiday.
How also ironic that this column is called “I’ve Been Thinking…” when at this very moment I crave thinking time…except to think: how will I get it all done? I have notes all over my house and office and car…notes to remind me to look at notes. Notes written in the middle of the night because I read somewhere that by the act of writing a note in the middle of the night, you can “give over” the problem and fall back into blissful sleep. That method didn’t quite work.
So what keeps us going? The fact that it always gets done in time; the admission that we need help and ask caring partners, friends and children who rise to the occasion. I am conscious that I am doing what generations of women and men in my family did and I have the honor to continue to be a link in the chain; and memories so deeply linked to the senses. The strong smell of soap and furniture polish, the feel of steel wool and old cleaning shmattes, the sound of soup bubbling and the sight of piles of new recipes I will probably never try, relying on the old ones that my family and friends always ask for, and the myriad little bright post-its all over my house marking a place or drawer already cleaned. And the taste – that comes later.
Cleaning for Pesach always feels cathartic, anxiety provoking and spiritually cleansing for me all at once. It is a ritual I am ultimately grateful for even when it feels like a huge, stressful rush. Right now it’s the 3am wake up — I am lying awake and try to remember: is the butcher delivering or do we need to pick up, what can I make for the vegetarians, who will pick up flowers, who can drive to pick up at the train, is unopened borscht from 2009 still fine to use, wherever did I put that reading I found last September that I wanted to remember to use at the Seder?
And it’s about missing and longing – missing Seders of long ago when I just had to be the kid, missing being with family who can’t travel so easily any more, vividly picturing two beloved grandmothers elbowing each other in the kitchen for a piece of cutting board to out-cook each other, remembering my father-in-law’s beaming face on the two nights a year he shone like a giant – these remain with me always.
What will my children remember? What will they want to carry on?
In the end for me I feel like the order of the Seders goes far beyond the actual Seder. For me personally it’s about a need to create order in a world that too often feels so chaotic and spinning out of my control – a fresh and clean home that will be ready for Pesach on Monday is a great end product to start a new year.
So maybe I have been thinking after all.