Unpacking and packing the Passover dishes

When I contemplated giving away the dishes and glassware that I’d cherished and added to for more than half a century, I realized I couldn’t do it.

Dishes (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
There is one chore I enjoy every Passover, although I’ve never admitted it before. I join the housewives’ chorus of complaints about the endless cleaning, work-roughened hands and aching back. But, secretly, there’s a part I enjoy.
I only fully realized it a few years ago. We had just done some refurbishing in our Jerusalem flat, and added a wall of beautiful cupboards in the kitchen. We were going to use them initially for my Passover dishes. Looking at my motley collection of more than 60 years, after I unpacked them and put them away, my husband said: “We can afford to have full sets now, where everything matches. Give this lot to a charity shop or someone who needs them, and buy new sets of dishes, cutlery and glasses.”
At first I thought it was a wonderful idea, but slowly it started to hurt. When I contemplated giving away the dishes and glassware that I’d cherished and added to for more than half a century, I realized I couldn’t do it.
There are still five plates left from a set my late sister-in-law gave me for a wedding present in 1955. They are white, with a gold border and decorated with little bunches of blue forget-me-nots.
Then there is a fleishig set, much diminished, with plates, sugar bowl, cups and saucers in deep blue with gold zigzags. It is very opulent, although the insides of the cups have become crazed with fine lines over the years.
Our soup spoons are enormous, double the normal size, but they came to Australia with my husband’s family from Poland and were handmade. I use them as serving spoons, and like the feel of their solid weight in my hands.
The wine glasses are the most mismatched of all the glassware, having been added to as more children were born, married, and our guest list increased. There are four tiny ones my mother gave our children as toddlers. I treasure them, as my mother had very little money, and whatever gifts she gave involved a real sacrifice. They have gold rims and bouquets of flowers painted on them in a rather lurid pink. But they were clutched in plump, dimpled fists by my toddlers at their first Seders, filled with grape juice, as they intoned “Mah nishtana…,” much mispronounced, which they’d learned at kindergarten.
We seem to have accumulated dozens of Haggadot over the years, many dog-eared and wine-stained. Some of them were read by family and friends no longer with us. It seems sacrilegious to discard them.
So I could have a Martha Stewart-style, richly adorned Seder table, all new, all matching. I do plan to buy some lovely things, but they will sit alongside the dishes and cutlery from yesteryear.
I wouldn’t exchange my motley collection for the most elegant settings in the world. They are not just things. As I unpack and pack them each Passover, the memories come flooding back. These items have come with me from Australia to Israel; and moved with me many times in Jerusalem until my much-loved permanent home in the suburb of Beit Hakerem.
When I am gone, I think my children will want them, because every Passover one of them always says: “Oh, I remember this!”
Perhaps they will pass on their memories to their children after we are gone, and it’s even possible these things will become precious to them also as the years go by, evolving into heirlooms one day.
Perhaps I am a hopeless sentimentalist, but every piece in my Passover cupboard brings back memories of times past, when I was young, when my children were young, when so many people I loved were still alive and sitting at our Seder table. Some things, with no monetary value, nevertheless remain precious if they have been cherished.
The writer is the author of 14 books. Her most recent novel is Searching for Sarah. dwaysman@gmail.com