Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Making Memories

Long after the last meal has been served and the last guest has departed, Pesach will still be alive and well--in our memories. Who said what, who did what will be available for instant replay whenever we want.

Obviously there is a religious reason and significance to celebrating Pesach, but there is a secondary purpose as well: making memories. When all is said and done literally what remains is stored not in our cabinets and attics but in our minds. A coming together for Pesach is a chance to strengthen existing bonds and create new ones. It's a time to add to the wealth that is family. And it's a time to reminisce about occurrences of long past times and people no longer with us. It's a time to remind ourselves that we didn't pop into the world all on our own; we come from somewhere, from someone, from lots of someones. It's a time to remember that it's not only genetics that makes us a family but shared experiences and shared memories. Passing an inheritance on to our children shouldn't be only about money but should also be about a sense of connection to those that came before.

For my husband and I only my mother remains living of our parents, and she will be at our seder table. Her presence alone brings joy to all of us. But she brings much more to the table than just herself. She brings with her the stories of how life was "in der heim." She brings with her stories about the great-great-great grandparents and aunts and uncles. She tells the stories of how life was for a little girl growing up then and who the important players were in that life. She is the one who remembers what I was like as a little girl and shares those stories gladly with my children. She is the one I can turn to with "Do you remember when...?" on my lips and know that she does remember. And yes, it pleases her, gratifies her that the minhagim that will be observed in my home, the niggunim that will be used, the dishes that will be served are familiar ones, ones passed down from generation to generation on both sides of the family.

My mom is a very with-it person, valuing new inventions for the help and convenience they bring to us. But she is also a big believer in the study of history, in the knowing of what came before. And this is particularly true when it comes to family. To know the past is to know yourself, to know where you came from and how you got to this point.

The Nazis, may their names be cursed for eternity, ripped asunder the fabric of my mother's life in Europe. They destroyed families and rejoiced in their insane actions. But they missed one point: memories can bring people back to life, can bring practices back into being, can bring us to where we are today.

Our family mesorah is an integral part of who we all are. With Pesach coming I wish for you all the chance to make new memories that will be part of that mesorah while recounting the tales of what once was, connecting the dots of then and now. It's another wonderful opportunity to add to that tapestry being woven about your family.

And yes, I sometimes daydream a bit and wonder what stories my great great grandchildren down the road will tell about my husband and I, about our celebration of Pesach. And I hope that those stories will go all the way back to at least my great grandmother. In our family Baba Gittel stories are legendary and we all know and can recount them. I will have done what I believe is my job if some future einekal can start a story "The Baba Gittel haht gezokt"--the Baba Gittel said. So go ahead, make all those preparations for Pesach, but don't forget the only thing that will last long after the table has been cleared--make memories.


Lissa said...

Thanks for a post that isn't on cleaning and that reminds us of what we should be thinking about when it comes to Pesach. This will be the first year my father has a grandchild at his seder old enough to ask the mah nishtanah and you can't believe how much he is looking forward to that.

Making memories? Lots better than making yet another bed.

efrex said...

Hear, hear!

Of course, my memories of seders at my house feature the ineveitable annual political/ religious arguments between my grandfather and great-unclezichronam livracha, along with whomever was foolish enough to offer an opinion, but that too is certainly part of my family's mesorah :)

Anonymous said...

In addition to yom tov memories, my kids love it every year when the Pesach dishes and utensils come out. There is something so wonderful to them about the patterns and styles that they only see once a year. My husband has similar memories of his grandmother's Pesach dishes - a few of which we still have.