BY ARLENE APPELROUTH / AJT //
Housekeeping has never been my strong suit. As a matter of fact, when my children were small, if I said, “It’s time to clean up,” one would invariably ask:
“Who’s coming to visit?”
I haven’t changed much since. My children are in their 30s, and I’m still relaxed when it comes to housekeeping standards.
As a matter of fact, a small rectangular throw pillow sits on my living room sofa has the following words – which perfectly explain my philosophy of housekeeping – embroidered:
My idea of housework is sweeping each room with a glance.
The fact that someone created a pillow with that sentence is comforting; it lets me know I’m not alone. It goes hand in hand with my lackadaisical habit regarding putting things away.
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“People who are organized are just too lazy to look for things,” are the words on one of my many refrigerator magnets.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, “A place for everything, and everything in its place,” is a motto you have probably heard as the true secret for keeping an orderly home. But I just can’t integrate that into my lifestyle. Of course, that means that periodically, things get out of control.
Passover is one of those times. If I only sweep my kitchen and dining room floors with glances during this eight-day holiday, the matzah crumbs end up blanketing the floors.
This is one holiday I’ve learned to keep my broom and dustpan nearby so I can see and use them often.
On one of the last days of this past Passover, I was discussing said matzah crumbs with my 5-year-old grandson, Elliott.
“Every time anyone eats matzah, we end up with crumbs everywhere,” I said.
I asked if he could think of a solution.
“We could skip the holiday or just not eat so much matzah.”
Passover without matzah would cause a major change in our family tradition, but it wouldn’t be the first.
Back in the ’80s, we celebrated almost every Jewish holiday with friends (who, in truth, had become like family). It was a total of three families – all of us Temple Emanu-El members – that always contributed delicious food for the occasion.
My friend Bobbi would bring homemade gefilte dish; Jackie brought mouth-watering desserts; and one side dish I always made was a kugel with farfel, chicken and the vegetables from my chicken soup.
Back then, there was always lots of giggling around the seder table. My husband Dan loved to conduct the proceedings – before the children learned how to read, he would read from the Haggadah, and have the little ones repeat what he read.
Watching the growth and development of all of our children brought pride and joy to all of us. It was interesting to listen to their comments about Passover as they became more sophisticated in their understanding of what it meant to be American Jews celebrating the most celebrated of all Jewish holidays.
Then, when my son David graduated from high school, instead of heading off to college and fulfilling the expectations of our family and most families we knew, he told us he wanted to study in Israel to deepen his understanding of Judaism by learning in a Yeshiva in Jerusalem. That year, when he returned for Passover, he insisted we conduct our seder following the procedures his rabbis in Israel had taught him.
The three families came together for the seder, as we had been doing for many years, except we began the seder much later than usual – it was 11 p.m. before we arrived at the place in the Haggadah where the instructions said to serve the festive meal.
It was so late by the time we were done eating, our friends left right then, before we actually completed the seder.
This was in 1997, and it was the last time our three families celebrated Passover together. But this year, I decided to invite the three families for a Passover reunion.
On the Sunday of Chol Hamoed, I invited everyone for a Passover brunch. It was wonderful. As the now-adult-age children arrived, each one asked how they could help: One offered to finish cutting up fruit for a fruit salad, and another sliced the kugels and placed them on platters. There were lots of helping hands.
It was heartwarming to reminisce about the old days, great to talk about what’s going on in everyone’s life now and especially wonderful to get to know the new generation. We spent time with each other’s grandchildren and took lots of pictures.
And the matzah crumbs didn’t bother me at all.
Arlene Appelrouth earned a degree in news-editorial journalism from the University of Florida and her career as a writer and journalist spans a 50-year period; she currently studies memoir writing while working on her first book.