Shaindle’s Shpiel

By Shaindle Schmuckler | shaindle@atljewishtimes.com

Passover seder under the dining room table was one of my favorite hiding places.

For many years, before they moved to the same apartment building where my parents, two aunts, two uncles and four cousins lived, my grandparents (z”l) lived on the second floor of a four-story

Shaindle Schmuckler

Shaindle Schmuckler

walk-up on Elsmere Place in the Bronx.

The apartment faced the “front.” It boasted two huge front windows. The one on the left had the fire escape, and the one on the right boasted a metal gate so we could not fall or jump while lounging on the windowsill.

The apartment had three authentic bedrooms. There was the living room-turned-bedroom and a back room-turned-bedroom. Two actual bedrooms, along with the one small bathroom and eat-in kitchen, were off this runway-shaped hallway, which always seemed very dark and scary to my little-girl self. By the way, this hallway was wide enough to house the Singer sewing machine, on which I learned to sew.

For years the apartment was filled with two married aunts and their spouses, one grandchild, one unmarried aunt, and one uncle. Yes, they all shared the apartment. I can’t even imagine mornings when all occupants had to ready themselves for work and my cousin Loretta had to get ready for school. Madness!

I vaguely recall all the ruckus caused by my grandmother and her three daughters preparing for the seder. The cooking, the dishes, the cleaning, the shouting, the furniture rearranging, the chair schlepping and, most important, the fish in the bathtub, which completely freaked me out when I needed to go. I did not realize I would be sharing this little bathroom with a flapping fish; good grief, what were they thinking?

I had no clue where the fish went from the bathtub. I sort of remember looking at it and hoping it would escape with a quick swim down the drain. I was a child with a vivid imagination. I could not, however, imagine the fish becoming gefilte fish. No way could I accept such barbaric actions by my own family.

Pesach usually meant a new outfit. Some of my clothes were hand-me-downs from my cousin Loretta. My love of the HMD (hand-me-down) line began early in my life. I still prefer the HMD line; however, now I am the proud recipient of the HMD line from my girls, some of their friends and some of my friends.

Back to my Pesach dress.

The one year I remember most was the year I wore a new flare dress. I was probably 6 or 7 years old. I loved the feel of spinning around and watching the dress spin with me. The skirt portion of the dress was quilted a soft red, yellow, white and blue plaid. Sitting on the big chair, I could spread the skirt all around me so I appeared to be sitting on a throne — with my skinny little legs dangling.

I thought I was in heaven until my dad saw me.

The siddurim were long. We kids sat at the grown-up table. We were very quiet until it was time to open the door for Elijah. We would all scream, “My turn! My turn!”

Every time I was chosen, I would shake with fear. Walking down that long, dark hallway to open the door was terrifying. I did it, but always on the verge of tears. The worst part was holding the door open to a dimly lighted hallway, the same hallway in which Elijah was waiting. Oh, God, is he in yet?

Finally, I was saved by the voice of someone yelling, “Farmach de teir” (shut the door).

And the craziness that came with finding the afikomen. Well, let’s just say that sitting under the table not only was a great hiding place, but also allowed me to see who would be hiding the afikomen, a distinct advantage until I was discovered.

Skipping to the next seder I remember, it was the one my own family had. My girls did not have to walk down a long, dark hallway; we did not have one. They just had to walk a few steps in a brightly lighted entranceway.

That skirt! When I think of it even today, it brings back delicious memories, and I am not referring to the fish in the bathtub.