Pesach Prep and Our First Visitors from the States

6:21 PM 0 Comments

Pesach is in two days....TWO!

Image from JoyOfKosher
I am two full days behind in my cleaning, and therefore my cooking is also behind schedule due to an unexpected virus (I'm not sure why I still consider them unexpected). Tomorrow our first visitors arrive to Retamim (Gram and Artie) and Friday we have three additional guests coming for seder and Shabbat. I've been planning, running, buying, and cleaning like crazy and I haven't stopped to think or process any of it. There are several things here exciting, happy, sad, nostalgic...

1. We are hosting seder for the first time. I knew the day would come eventually. I didn't think it would be quite this soon, but making a transatlantic move speeds some changes up. It was never reality enough for me to even think about what it would look like when I hosted seder- except I expected to use all of my grandmother's and great grandmother's kosher for pesach things. I don't have many of them but I managed to sneak a few car glasses and a couple of old pots on the lift. These are some of the things Adam was referring to in Stuff Can be Important too. The pesach items that belong to my grandmother and great grandmother only come out once a year, and because of this have very specific memories attached to them. The green bowl and crazy old ladle may be no more, but I will think of them and making kneidlach with my grandmother when I make my own kneidlach every year.

2. There is only one seder here in the holy land. Besides the amount of work and prep that goes into the meal, I am sort of indifferent to this fact.

3. This year I won't be sitting in Gram's living room with 30 of my near and dear. Sad. I don't remember ever having a Pesach seder as small as the one we are hosting (7 adults and our 3 kids). To me its always been about a large, crazy, loud group of family. We all squeeze into the living room (or for many years around the table) and have ourselves a seder. I have so many fond memories of how those seders evolved over the years. I am certainly fond of what they have been the past several years and I will miss you all dearly this year. Have your second four glasses for me.

4. Gram and Artie are coming!! This is extremely exciting. I can't wait for our first guests from the States to arrive to Retamim. I am anxious to show them the home we have made here, introduce them to our friends, and show them this extraordinary community. However, there is something a little daunting and nerve racking about our first guests. They will report back to the others, how is Retamim-really? Are they managing in their tiny caravan? How are the kids? Do they have friends? Are they all actually as happy as they say they are? Its a lot to live up to this week. I sort of feel like we have our own spies coming to check out haEretz.

5. THIS year in Jerusalem (ok not Jerusalem but Israel)!!  We are celebrating Pesach in the desert in ISRAEL! I have moments filled with awe on a daily basis when I look at the beautiful landscape of the Negev desert. Watching my children grow here has already been amazing. They are learning new words everyday and watching there friendships develop into REAL relationships is warming to watch. This community is the environment we wanted for our children; a place where they could be free to be kids and we could be more free to watch them grow.

Things change. We grow up, have our own children, move away, and host our own seder. But things also stay the same. I will sit at the table with my grandmother as I have done every year for the past 31 years. I will drink kosher for Pesach coke (which is no different than coke any other time of year here) out of a glass with a blue old fashioned car on it. And I will eat a hard boiled egg with salt water that was cooked in a beat up pot with a copper lid.

חג פסח כשר ושמח (Happy and Kosher Pesach)!


Stuff Can Be Important, too

4:55 PM 0 Comments

This week, a screwdriver made me cry, and a wooden sign brought a wave of emotion to my wife.

Like the caption of this blog: From New England to the Negev.
When you pack up your life to move to a new country, you realize that not all your stuff is coming for the journey. When you downsize from 1500 square feet (not including a full basement, attic, and garage) to just shy of 600 square feet, you realize that your life needs to exist independent of the things you have acquired. Life's meaning and purpose are directed away from the material to something else.

But, that does not negate what I have learned this past week. Things can be important too. Things can help bring us meaning. Or, rather, perhaps it is not the thing itself but the memories. More on this later.

If you have not guessed it, this week, our stuff arrived.


Now, I need to premise this with my overall satisfaction with Isaac's Moving and Kef International who teamed up to deliver our stuff to Retamim. They really did great. From providing estimates, packing our house in record time, clearing customs, and delivering to our doorstep, they did remarkable. Everything that was in their control went pretty smoothly.

I have heard many horror stories from people that had one difficulty or another. We did not really experience much of that, except ...

... today is March 5. Our stuff was supposed to arrive around January 5. Hmm. What's in a couple calendar flips?

On our flight, we took pretty minimal items. We had to out of necessity. But, we figured that we could get by with only the basics for six weeks, and then we would have everything else we needed to get through the day. That did not go according to plan.

For example: I brought two pairs of socks on the plane. Yup, just two. Why? Well, for starters, I hate socks. I would much rather wear boat shoes all the time if I could. And, I figured I would. The problem is that I quickly wore out my favorite Bass boat shoes, and needed to revert to sneakers--with only two pairs of socks in the rotation. For three months. Grumble, grumble.

Needless to say, when the stuff did arrive, we were happy.

What was I looking forward to the most? What things did we miss having? These are some questions we were asked a lot.

The first answer that came to our minds were our knives. Our beautiful knives.

We bought some dinky $1 paring knives to pack into our suitcases (yes, the El Al staff wanted to know about them before we got on the plane and specially marked that bag). Again, if it were only 6 weeks, we would have made do with them. But it dragged on ... and on ... and on. It seems as though our items may have missed the boat and ended up on the slow boat from Boston. Then, instead of landing in Ashdod port where it was supposed to port (about an hour and a half away), the ship landed in Haifa port (at least twice as far). More delay.

Now back to my original point. We travel through life constantly acquiring and discarding things. For good or bad, that is the way of the world. Sometimes we attach a lot of meaning to things. A particular car may be the status symbol of promotion at work. A scribbled piece of paper from a two-year old may hang proudly on display on a refrigerator door for months. Souvenirs exist on every street corner. But they are all things that only have meaning because we impart upon them.

Besides the practical use of objects that we are familiar with, and not having to spend money repurchasing everything we own, the stuff we did bring to Israel had special meaning. For Rachel, it was a family heirloom candleabra and her great-grandmother's silver.

For me, there was one object that I brought that I did not even realize had sentimental meaning until I unpacked it.

The screwdriver.

I tucked it away into my toolbox months ago not thinking much about it after that. After all, there are many in my toolbox. Why would one be any more special than the others? When I pulled this particular one out, however, it jolted me pretty hard.

This week, I realize that it is not the actual items that we crave. It is the memories we attach that make things special. It is our associations that we hold dear. Things are tangible memories.

And so it is with a screwdriver.

A screwdriver that belonged to my grandfather.

I love you pop. RIP.