By Hannah Reich Berman
For a while, I was talking to myself. Thank goodness that period is over and now I speak to other people once again. Talking to myself is pointless because, let’s face it, if I should ask a question, I already know what the answer is going to be. Nevertheless, I do it every year and I do it for about a week. Unfortunately, as embarrassing as this is, I do it publicly. That is because I talk to myself in the supermarket as I walk up and down the aisles shopping for Pesach. I don’t know what it is about the holiday, but, despite having been a homemaker for 50 years, I never quite adjust to the pressures of Passover. I have been known to become disoriented in a store that I frequent the other 51 weeks of the year. There is no rational explanation for it. It just happens.
In the early years, when our children were young and lived at home, Hubby and I shared the Pesach responsibilities. Well, it wasn’t exactly a share. It was divided this way: Hubby was responsible for selling the chametz and getting shemurah matzah and wine into the house, and I was responsible for everything else. He thought of it as sharing. I thought of it as finding myself in serfdom on an annual basis. As this is a holiday about freedom, I occasionally wondered why I had all but lost mine. Correction, I must acknowledge that Hubby also bought the soda because he realized that a dozen bottles of soda would be heavy for me to carry. It never occurred to him that 10 pounds of apples (for charoset) and 25 pounds of potatoes (for everything else) were also heavy loads to schlep.
But the chag is over now, so why dwell on the preparation for it? I am past that. However, I have not yet gotten past the way in which I spent the holiday. Somehow, Pesach, as with most of our celebrations, is associated with the consumption of food. At the Seders, before we even get to the meal, most participants consume enough calories to carry them through a winter’s hibernation. Weight Watchers is my thing, so I don’t think in terms of calories. I count points instead. But I am unable to do that without use of a computer or a pencil and paper, all of which are not usable on the first days of the holiday. So I am forced to estimate.
My best estimation, which is little more than a guess, is that, in the points department, by the time we were midway through Seder number one on that Monday evening, I was already up to Thursday’s lunch! Weight gain is only one component that people have to deal with when we overeat. The other is lethargy. By the time the Seder ended several hours later, I was just this side of comatose. If I could have used the phone, I would have called a taxi to take me from the dining room to my bedroom. And from what I observed, I was not the only one who felt that way. It appeared that everyone was moving in slow motion. And things did not improve on the second night.
After that came the two days of what I thought of as some freedom—free from sitting around the dining-room table and free from partaking of heavy-duty meals. The 48 hours following the second day of yom tov were chol ha’moed (the intermediate days), which fell this year on Thursday and Friday. But relief didn’t last long, because by evening on Friday we were back in the same mode, sitting around the table. But now it was for the Shabbos meals, and the good news there was that we didn’t have to deal with four cups of wine, or grape juice for those who could not tolerate so much wine consumption.
We also did not have to consume charoset, maror, an egg, a potato, and, my all-time favorite, the Hillel sandwich, which is a combination of charoset, maror, and romaine lettuce between two pieces of shemurah matzah. For those readers unfamiliar with shemurah matzah, feel free to look it up. I would like to be able to give a clear explanation, but my knowledge about those matzot is somewhat limited. What I do know is that, be it a one-, a two-, or a three-pound box, it costs a small fortune. I also know with certainty that the dark, round (yet somewhat irregularly shaped) matzot inside are rarely intact. Over the years I have observed that for every five pieces of matzah in a box, four will be broken by the time the box is opened, and broken pieces are unusable for most parts of the Seder ritual.
Except for the memory, it is all over. The cleaning, shopping, cooking, and serving are things of the past. As I did not make Pesach myself but was a guest at my daughter’s home, I had precious little to do in terms of shopping. But even the small shopping contribution that I made left me in a state of agitation. I was clearly discombobulated as I walked through the store mumbling and muttering under my breath, exactly as I have done for the last half a century and as I will undoubtedly go on doing for as long as I am healthy and strong enough to shop.
Most of the food purchasing, probably about 90% of it, was done by my daughter. So I didn’t have a lot to do. Despite that fact, however, I so wished that Hubby had been here to share the responsibility with me! My son-in-law took care of getting the shemurah matzah, wine, grape juice, and soda into the house, and it is possible that he would have done that even if Hubby were still here with us. But, even if Hubby had been relieved of those duties, he would have, at the very least, accompanied me to the store, shopped with me, and then, together, we would have brought it all to my daughter’s house.
Hubby, Arnie Berman, was missed before Pesach and during Pesach, and he is still missed after Pesach. I continue to talk to him, of course, albeit not in the same fashion as I once did. But still there is some good news—at least I am no longer talking to myself. That’s the way it is. v
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.