I did it. I ran the marathon. No, not a 5k or 10k. I’d call it the gazillion-k, if not more.
I ran the Pesach marathon.
It starts off with weeks of training, slowly easing into it.
Warm ups. Looking through pastmyself. Checking old menus. Shopping lists.
Training gets a bit more intense; decisions need to be made. 10 holiday meal plans in place. Out of state orders need to be placed for on time delivery.
I’m feeling ready to start. I’ve got on my best running shoes. Ready to switch gears, get out there and run. House cleaning starts. Bedrooms done. Dining room. Living room. And then we are ready.
Let the real marathon begin!
Kitchen here we come. Counters, sink and stove. Refrigerator and freezer. Empty, clean, scrub. My cleaning help is working overtime, and so am I.
And in comes the Pesach stuff. Pots and pans. Cutlery and dishes. Big pots and bigger pots. And still bigger ones. The cooking is ready to begin.
Side dishes and main dishes. One chicken, two…three…twelve…thirteen. We stop counting. Brisket. Potatoes and more potatoes. We’re picking up speed!
Peeling and peeling vegetables. My trusty crew of dedicated volunteer peelers fill the house. Ten, twenty, thirty….sixty pounds of peeled potatoes later, we’re making headway. These guys are quick! The piles are growing. The marathon intensifies. The oven is working harder than ever, no rest for it, no rest for anyone.
The timer beeps, it’s reset, beeps, reset, no end in sight.
Where to store all this food?? The clock is ticking, it’s getting later. I want to go to sleep!
Refrigerators are full. Freezers are full. But the marathon is not over!
Onto the second leg, Seder is coming! Centerpieces. Salmon. Gefilte fish. And the carrots on top. Zroah. Eggs. Lettuce. Marror. Charoses. There’s enough work for everyone!
I’m coming around the bend…I’m panting, but I’m still running! I will make it, I will reach the finish line!
The waitress arrives. She loads her car and shleps the stuff over to Chabad, the place of the community Seder. I print out my in depth 4 page waitress manual and review it with her. Step by step. Help! There’s so many steps!
It will work out. It will all work out! It will all work out!
The kids need their new Pesach clothes. The house is flowing with white shirts. Plenty to go around. Four year old has the size 6, 6 year old has the size 4. Quick switch. Uh oh, 3 year old took his grape juice stained one. No, tonight we wear the clean, sparkling white shirts. Of course they’ll be full of grape juice at night’s end, but that’s irrelevant.
One thing left on the list. Whoops, forgot to plan what I should wear. I do a quick closet search and find just the right thing.
I look at the clock. An hour to Seder. I look at my speedy-quick drying nail polish on my night table. Do I dare?
Yes, I need to do it for myself. I grab the bottle before I can second guess myself, and say a silent prayer that it’s as speedy-quick-instantaneous drying as it promises.
The Seder is coming, we’re going to make it.
Everyone, in the car!
And the Seder is here.
I can see the finish line, there in the distance. I can feel the blisters on my feet. I can feel my aching muscles. But I will finish this marathon!
I scan the tables. Matzah, Seder plate, lettuce and more. Centerpieces. Sweet wine. Dry wine. Grape juice. Cups. It’s all in the right place.
I greet the guests. And the TV crew.
TV crew? Gulp, what are they doing there?
They have strict orders to film until the candles are lit; once the holiday starts, there will be no more filming. I smile, my most relaxed smile.
I sit down. 4 year old reaches for the Grape Juice. He’ll finish the bottle before we even start. I negotiate and work that one out.
The Seder starts. I lead the women in lighting candles. The air is rich with meaning and joy. Every seat is taken. The guests relax and warm up.
The night progresses. The marathon is too full of enjoyment to notice we’re still running.
The crowd is happy. My kids are happy. My husband is running a great Seder. He’s calling up people to put on animal masks. The crowd is roaring with animal noises, as we relive the ten plagues.
I sit in my seat, taking it all in.
The finish line is even closer!
The crowd is alive. Standing on their chairs, singing Dayeinu! I feel the adrenalin rush, the type that hits as you near the end.
For serving dinner, I’m on call. We work our best to get the food out in the quickest, most efficient manner so that it stays hot and gets served quickly.
Mission accomplished. I can barely walk back to my seat, but mission accomplished!
More matzah. More singing. People are shmoozing. I hope some new friendships are formed.
And the night winds down, ending 10:30 precisely, as promised. I share a look with my husband. We made it!
As the crowd leaves with “L’shana Haba’ah B”Yerushalaim” (Next year in Jerusalem!) on their lips, I can feel the energy.
The energy of a nation, of a people so different yet so bound as one. We remember a nation of old, being led out of Egypt. And we relive it as the same nation, a nation with a bond so deep it can’t ever be destructed.
The crowd is so diverse. Some people I’ve never met, and some people I probably won’t see again for a long time. But it’s irrelevant. We are one. We share a past, we share a future, and tonight we shared the present.
The waitress is still working. I make a mental note to get her a nice gift after the holiday.
I gather the kids. The sweet little kids with grape juice stained clothing. They are happy, they enjoyed themselves. It’s written all over their shirts.
And we start the walk home. The 11PM – 1 mile walk home.
We start the trip, and suddenly I’m unsure if the finish line is behind us, or in front of us. Or maybe we are standing on it. Or maybe there isn’t one at all!
No, there is no finish line. This is the best marathon of all. The one that keeps on going.
Sure, some stretches are more intense than others. Certainly this time of year is one of the quicker paced-full on parts of it.
But thankfully, it’s not over.
Tomorrow night is another seder, but that one is hosted at our home, and with a much smaller crowd. Nothing major, compared to tonight.
I get home and collapse on the couch. Every muscle, nerve and tendon that I never knew existed is calling to me all at the same time.
Adrenalin is over. I need sleep. I’m empty of energy. But I’m full of warmth. Full of joy. Full of life.
Our house is full. Lots of family joining us for Pesach. Every last blanket, pillow, mattress and floor space that I own is being used. My heart is full.
It’s way past midnight, and the kids are having a ball. My 6 year old is still wearing his crocodile hat.
Eventually they’ll go to sleep. Probably after me. My husbands flat out on the playroom floor. Fast asleep.
We’ve given it our all. And before drifting off into a fitful sleep. I have thoughts of next year.
We’ll do it again. Of course we will. There’s no greater or more satisfying exhaustion than the Seder marathon.
And I know that all of us; each and every participant at the Seder tonight, and at all Seders across the world; we are all winners.
We are all in First Place.
P.S. After Pesach, we were able to watch the TV clip of the pre-Seder festivities. And when the camera zoomed in close on my speedy-quick-drying polished nails lighting the candles, I couldn’t help but smile to myself, I certainly had made the right choice! 🙂
Click here to see the beautiful clip from KCRA, highlighting the Jewish power, faith and unity after tragedy.