by Sharon A. Siegel
My local food store was quiet. I purposely went there at an odd hour that I knew doesn’t attract throngs of shoppers. I took a deep cleansing breath, as my yoga teacher preaches, and steered my red cart with a bum front wheel into the Passover Aisle. Deep breath…matzah….deep breath….gefilte fish in mysterious jelly (YUCK!)…..deep breath….TamTam crackers in even more varieties than previous years…..and then I saw “it” and tears began to flow down my cheeks. Those diabetic-inducing fruit slices in colors that are not found in nature do it to me every time. My loving mother of blessed memory bought them every year and kept them hidden until Passover officially began. She liked the red ones the best. I guess they were supposed to be cherry even though every color tastes like crunchy sugar. I threw them in my cart knowing my natural-food-only children would be repulsed again this year when they were brought out at the post-seder dessert buffet. I searched for my pocketbook tissue pack, mopped my cheeks, took another cleansing yoga breath and continued shopping.
I was fine looking at the Passover soup nuts that only my girlfriend could turn into a dessert. I was fine looking at the latke mixes that never taste as good as my other girlfriend’s “real” latkes but saves me from grating potatoes and onions and my house from smelling like oil throughout the holiday. I was even fine passing the ever expanding 200 varieties of Kosher for Passover condiments. But then I spotted another trigger to my tears. Those giant egg kichels in the box that seems to shrink every year. In my head I heard the yearly conversation between my mother and father. “Roz, why do you buy these? They are nothing but air. I am paying for air.” And my mother’s response, “Hon, I like them with coffee in the morning.” And she did. Every morning of Passover she enjoyed her air filled, sugar topped giant egg kichels in her seersucker floral housecoat and pink slippers. The pink slippers my brother insisted we bury her in so she’d be comfortable. I couldn’t stop the tears and by now there were three more shoppers in the Passover aisle. When I got over my embarrassment and picked up my head, I noticed the older woman was looking at me with understanding and sympathy. The two men in the Passover aisle had scurried away but the woman came up beside me, put her wrinkled arthritic hand on my shoulder and simply said softly “I know, my dear, I know.”
As a Jewish professional, I am aware of Big Tent Judaism’s outreach program called “Passover in the Matzah Aisle,” designed to bring an educational program to a public space in which Jews and others preparing for Passover can be found.
But what about my program, “Tissues in the Passover Aisle” for all of us that are stunned by vivid memories of Passover gone by and all our loved ones who will never be over the wooden mixing bowl or at the seder table again?
Sharon A. Siegel is the Life Long Learning and Adult Program Director at the Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill, NJ.