Friday, March 30, 2007

475. Liberation, part 1

My first memory of Passover is of shoes--fancy holiday shoes attached to stocky feet and legs, attached to four uncles, four aunts, a cousin or two, and my mother and father, the shoes crowded and bumping into each other under a long, white-tablecloth-adorned folding table beneath which I maneuvered among the feet and legs as if they were tree trunks in an exotic forest. But we were in a living room in Queens, I was just three or four, and this was the most exciting day of the year. I didn't understand why everyone sang and laughed as I played hide and seek, but my aunts and uncles were round and happy, and so was I.

My next memory, which weaves like a ribbon through all those that follow, is of Passover as the Season of Liberation from Dirt. My mother always vacuumed with passion, but her ardor reached stratospheric levels one spring week each year. After our floors and furniture achieved spotlessness, we ventured down to the storage room in the basement of our apartment building and were met by Norris, the nice handyman, who was eight feet tall and looked a little like a golem. My mother climbed over piles of old bikes, steamer trunks, retired household appliances, and other excess belongings of our neighbors until she found the fruit cartons tied with heavy twine (no other kinds of boxes were allowed in our home, since my father was produce manger of a supermarket) which held a set of pink dishes and shiny silverware. We always stored the cartons at the closest end of the room and would marvel each year when we found them at the far opposite end, as if they had made their own Exodus in order to evade our discovery. Norris the golem would stack the cartons on his mountainous shoulders and I would run to the elevator and hold open the door to begin our journey back up to the fourth floor, which this one spring week would be transformed into somewhere completely unusual.

(Inspired by these great posts, and continued here.)

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