A Calendar of Events

Below is the latest entry in the “Preparing for Passover” Blog written by participants in JOI’s Mothers Circle Program:

Lately I have been thinking about how my life has shifted to a different calendar than the one I knew as a child. I remember my mom’s calendar on the refrigerator, with scribbles of schedules every day of the week; the eagerly anticipated Advent calendar at Christmas; the seemingly endless supply of airplane-themed calendars that my dad, an aviation historian, delighted in bestowing on his less than thrilled offspring. If there were any Jewish holidays on our many calendars, they existed only in polite small type at the bottom of the squares. My family celebrated Christian holidays out of habit and an appetite for chocolate, rather than for religious reasons. The calendar revolved around the academic year and family vacations (Colorado!! in red ink); our various enthusiams and hobbies (Piano recital! Soccer practice! Air show!) and whatever time my mother could squeeze in for herself (Walk dog!). My mom habitually punctuated all activities with exclamation points, and I never understood why, until I became the keeper of our family calendar. It’s the equivalent of mental coffee–keep going!!!

But now I live on a different schedule, with holidays popping up unexpectedly and bumping into each other, piling up amongst the exclamation points on my calendar. I have a Jewish calendar, so that at least I know what year it is, and the typeface for each celebration is up high on the squares and in big letters (for once, Christianity gets relegated to the less valuable real estate in the lower corners). The calendar I have this year is my favorite so far. It has a cheat sheet on each page with a helpful illustration; crib notes for the terminally uninformed and disorganized. Passover has a charming scene of an extended family sitting down to a table groaning with food. This is what I’m supposed to be preparing for–a lovely week of family time. It takes up acres of white space across the bottom of March and into April, and this year will coincide with at least two other events (Lara is coming!! 42nd birthday!).

The truth is, Passover drives me nuts. Every year, from November to February, I live in a maelstrom of birthdays and holidays. By March, I’m exhausted. I just want to putter in my garden and sit in the sun. Last year, I met my Mother’s Circle group at the local kosher grocery store, and listened to my Rebbetzin, Lori, enthusiastically explain how to kosher a house for Passover. She covers the counters with paper, tapes up the cupboards, and sets out everything she needs for the week on the counters ahead of time. Instead of buying the expensive “kosher for Passover” mayo, she buys a new, small container of the regular stuff–it’s already kosher, and perfectly fine since it’s unopened and has no chance of having been accidentally touched by chametz. Lori told stories about Passovers from her childhood, and grinned at all of us; clearly Passover is something she loves. To me, standing there in the kosher aisle, it just sounded like a mountain of work. I usually love Jewish holidays, but I have never developed an affection for this one. Even my husband likes Passover; it’s one of the two Jewish holidays he celebrated when I first met him. Apparently, I am the Passover equivalent of Scrooge.

So, this year, I’ve decided to admit the truth. Although this is not my favorite holiday, I will do my best not to dread Passover. I am not going to avoid the looming squares on my calendar. I will see it as a chance for renewal, for telling stories to my kids, and for finding a way to make unleavened birthday cake. I may even cover my kitchen counters. This year I will try to worry less about pulling off a seder, and more about just sitting at the table. I don’t think I’ll ever achieve the scene of family bliss in my calendar, but this year, I plan to be happy with whatever happens.

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