Preparing for Passover in Memphis: A Trip Down Memory Lane

My Memphis holiday memories remind me what matters most

What does the word “Passover” bring to mind? Of course, the holiday itself. But for me, it brings back so many wonderful memories.

Growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, in my house the holiday would start five to seven days in advance. It would begin with a Spring Cleaning like never witnessed before. Not just the kitchen, although that got the bulk of the cleanout. But the whole house was cleaned from floor to ceiling. There could not be any chametz left in the house.

And after the refrigerator was cleaned out completely, and the ovens were cleaned (by hand), the counters were cleaned off and all signs of the everyday year-round items were put away. We taped up the cabinets so no one would bring out the everyday dishes or pots and pans. When everything was ready in the kitchen, we would roll in two large cabinets from the storage room outside. In these cabinets were the dishes, glasses, silverware, pots and pans that would be used for Passover.

Then the fun began – cooking!

My mother and the rest of the family would get the kitchen ready, and then my grandparents and my great-grandmother would come over and we would prepare for Passover. We chopped pecans, cleaned and chopped liver, boiled the gefilte fish, chopped the charoset, and baked! We went through more eggs than our non-Jewish neighbors did at Easter.

Cooking for the seder always meant time spent together talking, laughing, learning, and loving. That’s what I remember most – loving the time we spent together. The week of Passover also meant time spent together for each meal. After all, there was no eating out for dinner. No take-out brought home. We ate three meals a day, for eight days, together at home.

Dad took lunch to the office, and the kids took lunch to school. But once we were in high school, we would come home for lunch every day. And I had lunch with the three generations that spent the day at my house.

I can still hear my grandparents bickering when grandpa tried to grab a fresh baked good out of the oven. I can still hear my great-grandmother fussing at me as I tried to taste the charoset (she thought it had too much wine—- as if there is such a thing!). I miss those days. I miss my grandparents and great-grandmother. It’s amazing how things that seem like such a chore to you, can be a bit less so with the help of three other generations. I was so lucky to share those holiday experiences with my extended family.

I hope that my children have memories that they look back on and think of fondly. So, I pose the question to you: Are you helping to build memories for your children? Will they be able to look back on the talk, laughter, learning, and loving time spent together over the holiday?

Wherever we’re celebrating this year – in Memphis, in Jackson, or wherever you may be – let’s all try to make sure the answer to those questions will be a resounding “yes.”

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