Monday, March 29, 2010

Playing Ghost

Yesterday, my mother boarded an El Al flight to join my brother and his family in Israel for the holiday. She was so relieved not to have to do any Pesach cleaning or cooking of her own. When I was little, preparing for Pesach was a major headache for my Mom. With 5 kids, a full time job, and barely enough money to cover the added costs, she had to work long into the night to get everything ready on time. To add insult to injury, my father a"h, who tended to get very jittery and irritable before holidays, would rush around the kitchen trying to help, which ticked her off even further. We children knew to stay out of the kitchen before the inevitable meltdown occurred. One year, this took the form of my mother throwing a wet sponge at my father's head; another time, she threatened to drown him in the chicken soup if he didn't get out of her way. My father, who loved my mother more than anything in the world, always looked shocked and hurt and would protest feebly that he was just trying to help. We would shake our heads sadly and gently lead my dad out of the kitchen, marveling that after all these years he still hadn't learned his lesson.

Eventually my Mom would declare the kitchen "finished" and we would all assemble in the living room to prepare for Bedikat Chametz (searching for chametz) just before midnight. By this point, my mother was so exhausted and so eager to get the kids to bed that she would urge my father to "stop with the narishkeit already and just go play ghost". As my father wandered around the dark house clutching a lit candle and looking for the 10 pieces of bread that we had hid moments earlier, my mother would mutter darkly under her breath. The moment the ceremony was over, we were rushed off to bed.

My siblings and I never viewed these proceedings as being unpleasant or traumatic. We thought the whole process was funny, and sometimes we would lay bets as to how long it would take before my mother started threatening my father with a dishwater bath. Now as adults, all 5 of us still refer to Bedikat Chametz as "playing ghost". I thought of my parents last night as I watched Flash lead his sisters around the house looking for the 10 pieces of bread. As they came downstairs, Supermangirl excitedly announced "Ma, we did really great this year! We found eleven pieces of bread!" Flash shook his head in exasperation (apparently the girls had hidden 11 pieces instead of the required 10) but all I thought was "a new generation, but still the same old chaos".

I hope you all enjoyed playing ghost in your houses, and that you and your families are able to leave the chaos of preparation behind and enjoy a peaceful and stress-free holiday.

Chag Sameach!!!


8 comments:

G6 said...

Chag Kasher V'sameach to you and yours.

ProfK said...

May you have a chag kasher v'sameach--glad to hear you've laid the "ghost" to rest.

Baila said...

That was really nice! Chag Sameach to you!

Jack said...

Hope you are having a nice Chag.

Commenter Abbi said...

Oy I remember my grandmother's meltdowns, (my mother never made seder, and pesach was pretty rudimentary until my brother and I were old enough to clean. They would clean enough to come back for chol hamoed and leave us at one grandparent or another). They usually came at the end of Pesach when we were cleaning up and putting everything away. Things usually flew too, I think one year it was a bottle opener, but I can't remember.

Hope you had a great chag!

Leora said...

Oh, this brings back some stressful memories. Pesach is hard, and I remember my mother being exhausted. I also have memories of being totally stressed out before Sukkot one year when I had two little bitty boys and a husband who wanted me to help with the sukkah... after that, he got a friend to help, and now my boys do it all with him. Holiday prep time can bring out difficult moments.

Minnesota Mamaleh said...

chag sameach and excellent post! sometimes (but only sometimes) holidays are so. much. stress. we all think it's just our family that um- throws sponges. but in reality, we've all been there! thanks for the perspective and the "playing ghost" wordage-- LOVE it! :)

Tzipporah said...

Oh dear. And here I thought it was just me...

One thing about being a convert is that you don't have the family traditions of *how* exactly to do all this stuff, especially if you're the mom. And with Bad Cohen's family being mostly unobservant, I get no sympathy or advice there.

Although it does mean I was able to ship both Bad Cohen and the toddler off to his sister's house the Sunday before Pesach so I could finish everything without going (completely) crazy. :)