This Year is Different…

I left my Chicago hotel this morning, umbrella in hand, and headed for Whole Foods. During the six-minute-walk, I mentally ran down my shopping list and planned out the next two days.

This year is different…Mah nishtanah…

As I left the store and walked to the apartment, groceries in hand, I reflected on Passovers gone by. The childhood memories of large family Seders held at my grandparents’ house in Boston — as well as the ones in New City with my aunt, uncle and cousins — are still vivid. Equally so are the ones held years later in Florida or in New York at my brother-the-rabbi’s and sister-in-law’s house. I loved each and every noisy one…the cooking, singing, laughing, skits, Afikoman money, adults and kids, and catching up with everyone. Those were good happy times.

This year is different…Mah nishtanah…

The extended family will not be together. As a matter of fact, due to a variety of valid reasons, my entire family will be spread out. My mom is in Israel with my sister and her family. My dad is in New York with my brother and his. And, I’m in Chicago with mine.

This year is different…Mah nishtanah…

I’m a grandmother now. And so, I’ve taken charge of the kitchen (I’m channeling my mother and grandmother!). Today’s preparations focused on chicken soup, matzah balls, and brisket. Tomorrow the vegetables, mushroom quinoa, charoset, and matzah rolls will be made. My “kids” will set the table and deal with the Seder plate. My husband will ensure there’s plenty of wine and will take charge of leading the Seder. With all that — our own approach and way of doing things — our little family will establish its own traditions.

This year is different…Mah nishtanah…

As I formed the matzah balls, I smiled at my sleeping grandson in the motorized “bouncy” seat. (I too was exhausted after an hour of cooing and gooing, but a nap for me was not part of the day’s schedule.) I had encouraged my daughter-by-marriage to go out and spend some much-needed time on herself, so I alone was home to juggle food timers around diaper changes, bottle-feedings, naps, and even a little bit of work. I must say, although I must perfect these skills, I enjoyed every minute of the entire day.

This year is different..Mah nishtanah…

This is the first Passover we’ll be celebrating since my grandfather passed away. While the thought saddens me, I’m grateful for the years we all had with him and the things I learned on his knee. I am thankful that I now have the opportunity to “pay it forward” with my own grandchild. I already can imagine a Passover, just a few years from now, when Ryan practices singing The Four Questions (Mah nishtanah…) as he helps me make the matzah balls.

And so it goes….m’dor l’dor…from generation to generation.