Memories of Passover Past
My father is a known hoarder of haggdot. One could say he’s a collector but we have boxes and boxes of haggadot that he has ‘collected’ over the years. Every Pesach, at the seder, all attendees can choose their haggadah. We all have different ones and share readings from our books. It makes for an interesting and rich seder experience. Over the years, I have gone through phases. The animated haggadah, the alternative ones, for a while my favorite was the one from the Holocaust… but in recent years, I have decided to stick with the traditional Baskin Haggadah. If you know this haggadah there is a chance you are familiar with the controversy over the artist and his excellent little joke he left on page 93… (you can message me if you have no idea what I am talking about…). Anyway, this has been my haggadah of choice. The year I got married, I picked my haggadah as usual and sat down to the seder. I opened this particular version and saw my grandmother’s name on the first page. Funny, strange… but ok.
We begin the seder and I see my grandmother’s tell tale handwriting in this haggadah, mostly in relation to when we eat something or drink wine. The pages are stained with wine and charoset long gone.
As the seder progresses, we flip back and forth reading and I happen to flip to the back cover. I gasped. It was here that my grandmother immortalized every Passover seder she had prepared (and there were many since she was the daughter and wife of rabbis) from 1974 until 1992, when my grandfather passed away. She listed the guests at her seders, including my very first seder as a newborn in 1981 and my brother’s at 9 months old in 1986 (her notes). She details the menu and it’s consistency over the years – fish, soup, lamb or chicken, potatoes, tsimmes, meringues… She notates “blizzard, 1 foot of snow” and “cancelled, Mickey’s father died.” You’ll find our seders at their home in NY and then when they retired, Palm Coast. You’ll see marriages and divorces, births and deaths.
This was all so terribly poignant to me. You see, my grandmother, while still alive has been suffering with dementia for some 15 years. Today, she remembers me as a five year old with pigtails and when told I was pregnant with our son, she gasped thinking I was still young (and unmarried – when reminded I was married she responded “well that’s better”)!
But I have this delicate and sweet record of Passovers past. And when her mind can no longer recall the details, I have them and I can share them with my children. Which got me to thinking… which haggadah should I record our family seders in?
Here are grandma’s notes –
Photo: Copyright © Talia Haykin – The Davis Family, four generations (the toddler is the author)