I’ll admit it: Passover has always been one of my least favorite holidays, partly because of the digestive upheaval that ensues when you suddenly adopt a matzah-based diet, and partly because of the fact that celebrating has always meant subjecting myself to eight days of physical upheaval.
Since making my kitchen kosher for Passover has always seemed incredibly daunting, and since my mother prefers to have her kids (and now grandkids) close by for the holidays, my husband and I have taken to packing up for the week and moving in with my folks for the duration of the holiday. Last year, that meant cramming two adults, a toddler, and a yappy dog into a small bedroom. Since my sister, brother-in-law, and brother stayed over as well, it also meant sharing one bathroom with far too many people for comfort (clearly suburban living has spoiled me a bit, as up until recently we had more bathrooms in my house than people). To top it off, my grandmother lives directly below my parents (they share a two-family house), and during this time, she hosted my aunt and uncle, their children, and their children’s significant others. In other words, it was a whole lot of people under one roof.
In recent years, the lack of physical space during Passover week was challenging for everyone involved. For one thing, there’s no place to go to have a remotely private conversation, so when personal matters came up, they were inevitably shared with the group.
I remember the family ganging up on me one year after my aunt innocently asked if my husband and I were considering starting a family. My aunt and I are very close, so it wasn’t a crazy thing for her to be asking that question, but before long, our one-on-one conversation evolved into a round table debate and culminated in most of my family members laying on the pressure and guilt while I sat there growing increasingly annoyed. On another occasion, my first cousin found herself in a similar situation when one of us (for all I know, it could’ve been me) asked whether she expected her long-term boyfriend to propose soon, and the rest of the people in the room decided to make comments and butt in.
And then there were the yearly fights–the seder wars, as we like to call them–between my father and brother, where my brother would make a series of mostly humorous but mildly obnoxious comments about the length of the seder and the temporary living situation in general, and my father would go from amused to downright furious in the span of 30 minutes.
This year we’re looking at the same accommodations, only with the addition of another pack-n-play for our newborn twins, which will somehow have to magically fit in a corner somewhere. Still, for the first time in a long time, I’m actually looking forward to uprooting myself for a week.
During Passover, my parents’ house will be loaded with the people who mean the most to me–family members who have shared in my joys, helped me overcome my disappointments, and, most recently, been an incredible support system during a long and trying twin pregnancy. When the horrible back pain that defined much of my pregnancy attacked at full force during last year’s high holidays, my family members went out of their way to help me, offering up everything from massages to pillows in an attempt to ease the pain. During my third trimester, I got weekly messages and phone calls asking how I was feeling and whether I needed help. And when my daughters were born in January, my family members all dropped what they were doing to come out to see me despite the fact that they live over an hour away and had snow and ice storms to contend with.
When I was a kid, I got to see my extended family all the time, but as an adult–especially one with a family of her own–I’m finding it much more difficult to snag quality time with the people I love. And while the past two months of raising newborn twins have been a blessing, they’ve also afforded little opportunity for me to pick up the phone and stay in touch.
That’s why I’m so excited for Passover this year. The holiday itself may revolve around dietary laws and religious tradition, but to me, it’s always been a time of forced family bonding. And at this point in my life, that’s a good thing. I’m really looking forward to my week-long roommates teasing each other and getting on each other’s nerves. It’s all part of being a family, and one that I’m extremely grateful to be a part of.