Nestled on top of my Passover dishes lies a binder that I open every year before I begin preparing for the holiday. When Passover ends, I add a page, close it up, and return it to its place in the cupboard, where it remains until the next year. Every year, it is the way I begin the holiday, and the way I end it.
When we bought our first house and decided that the time was right to make our own Passover at home, my mother suggested keeping a Passover journal. Not of menus and to-do lists, she said, but of experiences: Write about how old the children are, and how they celebrate Passover. Write about Passover projects and outings, about the songs you sing, and the stories you tell. Write about the guests who join you for the Seder. Write about the things, she said, that you want to remember.
I started my Passover journal in 2000. Every year, I wrote about family Passover trips to zoos, museums, arcades, and miniature golf. I wrote about frying endless matzah meal pancakes and going through dozens of eggs in one week. In my journal, I reported on children born, their first mah nishtanahs, and the projects they brought home from school. I wrote about pregnancies and births, about getting ready for bar and bat mitzvahs, graduations, and weddings.
Sometimes I share the journal entries with my children. “Do you remember?” I ask, reading about that time that I asked my niece if she wanted a macaroon, and she responded that she really wanted macaroni. Or the year my son was so excited that he began each day three weeks prior to the holiday by opening his eyes and asking, “Is it Pesach today?” Or the time I woke up bleary-eyed on the day after the seder, sat in the kitchen drinking a cup of coffee, and spied a squirrel in my backyard nibbling on a piece of matzah.
These are all treasured memories, even though not all the memories are happy ones. I wrote of loved ones who celebrated Passovers with us and then passed on—my father-in-law, my mother-in-law, my grandmother, and even my eldest son. The Passover after we lost him in a car accident at age 14, I didn’t know how I would write. The pain was excruciating, and the thought of remembering good times was beyond me. Yet somehow, I wrote about an empty place at the seder table, but also about moving forward, about remembering good times, and about going on living. I wrote that journal entry with a lot of tears.
That was in 2007. This year, I will write about my first Passover as a grandmother. My new grandson, 3 months old and named after my son, will be joining us at our Sedarim this year.
Every entry in the journal ends the same way: with a list of the many events to look forward to in the coming year, and a blessing that we should continue to have the physical, financial, and emotional ability to always make Passover. Then I sign and date it, and don’t think about it again until the next year.
Thus, I begin my preparations for the holiday: For several minutes, I place my endless lists and menus to the side, and open up my journal to read and reminisce. It’s often hard to see past the hours of work that are so much a part of preparing for Passover, but every year, my journal reminds me that this holiday is about family, sharing, and remembering. That life changes quickly, and that we need to savor these moments.