Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cardboard Box Memories

He came bearing gifts of papers, pictures, and the poignant painted past.

The five of us sat around him while he unearthed each box and dismantled the treasures of six plus decades.

"This book belongs to you. The dedication says so."

"Who wants this picture that Aunt Anne painted three decades ago? My mother hung it in her living room."

"Ah, yes. Your bar mitzvah book. Save it for your children."

"What should I do with this prayer shawl (tallit) that my late father-in-law gave to me?"

It was the night before the Passover seder, and my former husband had arrived with four large cardboard boxes packed with tangible memories. He was moving out of his two-story house where he had been accumulating and protecting his family’s belongings. It was time to downsize and let go.

Our four children, their spouses, and their nine children had come together to celebrate another fabulous family seder. This night, the night before the cooking preparations would begin, was set aside to unravel the bubble wrappings of our past.

After two hours, each child had their own cardboard box filled with books from their childhood, pictures from their youth, a few choice letters and journals from high school and college.

My box was less full: One small book, The Ethics of the Fathers, that I had left behind after the divorce; a two-page story I had written about my son’s birth; and the tallit my late father had bought for his new son-in-law to wear under the wedding chuppah, a traditional gift.

We laughed. We reminisced. We jogged each other’s memories. We jostled over a few family jewels. (Another Aunt Molly pastel painting!) We transitioned yet again into a new Passover where memories could be shared and tossed and scattered from generation to generation. The truth of our tribal journey was inescapably bound up with our past, present, and future artifacts.

Just as we continue to look for that elusive "afikomen," we continue to look for ourselves in the history we create with every Passover seder. This year was not any different from last year.

We were a family making memories for a future keepsake. We never overlooked a memory that we couldn’t wrap up in a cardboard box of love.

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