April 20, 2024
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Preparing for Pesach And for Marriage

As I pack up to visit my parents in Rancho Mirage, California, for the third Pesach in a row, I think about this amazing luxury I have. A big part of being a newly minted adult is figuring out what to do for holidays when you live away from home, and luckily, the holidays I’ve needed to prepare for in my adult life have been few and far between, thanks to my wonderful parents. Of course, it certainly helps that they’ve always lived in a vacation destination (first, my hometown of La Jolla, and now the serene desert), and I am so grateful that my husband, Caleb, and I can lock up our Washington Heights apartment and not fuss over this tedious holiday.

So many young adults and newlyweds worry about “making” their first Pesach, and for good reason. Pesach is incredibly stressful—it not only involves a thorough cleaning, which gets increasingly difficult as you have children, but also involves a heap of expenses, including food and cooking supplies. And if you want to get away from it all? While there are many vacation and programming options, these are rarely within reach for the average young person. And some of the stress, at least for us 20-somethings, comes from the unknown of never having done this before. What should I do to prepare? Where would I even start?

Many of us remember the first pandemic Pesach fondly … or not. In April 2020, Caleb and I were engaged and had plans to go together to my parents in California. Another stress-free holiday in the books. That was, until the world shut down. We became trapped in New York, unsure of how safe air travel would be for us, and what we may expose my parents to if we did make the trip. (We were also in the midst of panicking about our June wedding, but we needed to panic about Pesach first). What would we do to prepare? Where would we even start?

So Pesach 2020 became the first Pesach I ever made as an adult. Caleb and I went to the 99-cent store in our neighborhood and picked up an obscene amount of disposable dinnerware and inexpensive cooking supplies. We went to our local grocery store and stocked up on the pantry staples. We “Lysoled” everything vigorously—yes, including the groceries—and began cooking for an exquisite Pesach alone. And since we lived across the street from each other, the logistics actually worked out quite nicely, despite having to clean both apartments.

I remember feeling upset that our Seder table would be missing the traditional items: a kiddush cup, a matzah cover and, of course, a Seder plate. I took it upon myself to figure out how to make it feel more like home, and settled on making my own Seder plate. I painted a plain white plastic dinner plate with my old acrylic paints, creating an ornate design, which sat prominently between Caleb and me while we had our very first Seder together. Completely alone.

That Seder, and the rest of Pesach, became a testament to two things: firstly, that I was in fact capable of making Pesach on my own, and I would be all right if I did not have the luxury of going to my parents every year. But secondly, it was a testament to my relationship with Caleb. I got to observe how well we performed together under pressure, preparing for a notoriously difficult holiday within a few days. I got to test how well we can entertain each other for many uninterrupted days with no other people to speak with; I was even impressed with how long our Seders lasted, going for several hours each night while we discussed the many insights on the Haggadah. I felt that if we could handle this pandemic Pesach, it was likely we could handle anything. And even if that’s not true, it certainly gave me incredible confidence, going into our marriage, that we could withstand any challenge that comes our way.

I kept that painted Seder plate. And now, every year when I pack to visit my parents, I take it out and remind myself that I could make Pesach if I had to. And maybe one day, I will again.

Channa Fischer is the token 20-something in the office. She resides in Washington Heights.

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