Memories of Pesach

by Arliene Botnick, April 2, 2017

The brightly flowered linen curtains were taken from the storage cupboard, washed, starched, ironed, and ready to be put up in the kitchen. The white tablecloth was also readied. The dishes that were wrapped in newspaper and stored on the highest shelves in our kitchen were, with great difficulty, ‘schlepped’ down, hand washed, as was all the Passover cutlery. My mother Jenny, alahv’shalom, was getting prepared for Pesach.

There were the many trips (by TTC) to Spadina Ave to buy the kosher meat, the raw fish to make gefilte fish, and if we were lucky, our local A & P grocery store had the other Kosher for Pesach items. Otherwise, more trips to Spadina Ave.

As Passover neared, the ‘pungent’ odour of fish being boiled permeated every nook and cranny. Even as I walked home from school, the “unforgettable” aroma of the fish welcomed me to my front door. Of course, as the 1st Seder night neared, the tantalizing smell of roast chicken, sweet kugel, potato kugel and chicken soup added to our anticipation of that 1st Seder. We’d waited a whole year and here it was again!

My dad and my cousin led the service. My mother and aunt ran back and forth, serving, clearing dishes, washing them, checking on how the meat was doing (not too dry), if the prune compote was not too thick (prunes are great to counteract the effect of the matzah), and just making sure that our family dinner, our celebration of our Jewish identity, went as smoothly as possible. I’m the youngest, so I asked the four questions and at the end, my older sister and I had the privilege of opening up the door for Elijah the prophet’s visit. We always sensed a gust of wind as he entered. Of course, there was the afikomen search (my dad always had it in the same place), and the prize for finding the afikomen (my sister and I always got a $1.00). Then, so quickly, it was over.

My last Seder with my dear father was in the spring when I was 13. He died that fall. We continued our Seders, but they were different. My last Seder with my beloved husband Ron was in 1985. My last Seder with my special mom was in 1991. We still continue our Seders. Much has changed. Those who are gone are deeply missed. Children, grandchildren, even pets are all there now. The Gefilte fish is from a frozen loaf; we have a dishwasher, and we don’t change the curtains. What hasn’t changed is that, as a Jewish family, we celebrate and regale in our Jewish identity. We remember our past, celebrate our present, and look forward to our future. We make new memories!

Chag Sameach Pesach to all!

Filed under: Educator's Message

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