A Passover Tale

Storyteller was a real profession some time ago and it still is in certain countries. There have been some serious storytellers in my family so maybe I am just trying to keep up with the tradition.

Passover is approaching and I was thinking back to one of my fondest memories.

In general we used to spend Passover with my mother’s parents in the country.

We loved to go there as kids because my city grandmother had basically wrapped her whole house up in plastic so nothing would get dirty while my country grandmother just had the living room she only opened on Saturdays but the rest of the house was always accessible for all kind of games. Furniture was nothing special so we could grow butterflies in jars, have snail races on the kitchen table or make a real mess when baking a cake.

That year, I was about 5 years old and Passover was late in the spring. My mother and her sister were cleaning the house; my dad and grandma were busy cooking and preparing Passover food.

One of our Passover traditions was for my grandpa to walk me through his garden to have me check that things are in order.

He was very proud of his garden.

We checked if the birds were coming bad, rebuilding their nests, sometimes they had eggs in them already.

We were checking the trees and flowers, making sure leaves are coming back, trees and plants were starting flowers and would soon bare fruit.
At the back of the garden there was a patch of grass full of wildflowers. Grandpa would cut that patch only after Passover.

He said that sometimes the bees wake up too early in the spring and they are hungry and need these wildflowers.

So he just wanted to help.

I looked forward to this spring walk every year; the garden seemed immense, even though it really was not. I loved to feel my grandfathers hand in mine, it was not soft, it was rough and strong, grandpa did manual labor.
Every year he taught me something new about the garden.

I was 5 that year and grandpa told me that I had reached the age of being his copilot.

He came home 2 days before Passover with a box full of printed newsletters.

These came from the Schul my grandparents belonged to. It was far away and they really did not go that often but my grandfather was in charge of distributing the newsletter.

So this year was my first year to help him.

We started folding the newsletters and placing them into envelopes.

Then my grandpa pulled out a map of his little town and the surroundings, he placed a transparent piece of paper over the map and placed little marks for every address that would get a newsletter. Next we decided on the most effective way to make every delivery.

While we worked for quite some time grandpa told me that the next day we would take all these newsletters and deliver them. He would ride his bike, I would sit on the seat on the back of his bike, grandma would give us a pick nick.

We would go far he told me, out of town, through the wood and we might encounter adventures. Most likely the ride would take the whole day but we would need to finish delivery, it was important that every family received the newsletter before Passover.

I was so excited, biking with grandpa for the whole day and playing postman.

I could barely sleep. I dreamed about the woods and I thought it would be a good idea to have my little compass in my pocket- we might get lost.

The next morning we woke up early, we placed all the newsletters in the basket on the bike as well as sandwiches, apples and a thermos with sugared milk coffee.

I had the map in my pocket, my compass and my swiss knife (it was a bay swiss knife) and the list of the addresses by order of delivery.

The god old hand made MAPSCO.

First deliveries were made in the small town my grandparents lived in.

Then we were biking through the country, from one farm to the other. At every stop when we handed the newsletter out we had to come in for coffee, cookies, hot chocolate, it was so perfect. Some families had puppies or kittens and I was alloed to pet them, it really was an adventure.

We just had done the last farm house and had to cross the woods now to get to the farthermost house and then we would bike back making three more stops to go home.

It was late in the afternoon already when we entered the woods, grandpa was biking and I tried to keep my legs away from the wheels. Grandpa was going up hill and he said let’s have a sip of coffee on top.

We stopped, he pulled out the thermos, and coffee was very sweet, had a lot of milk and just tasted delicious. Grandpa looked around and he pulled my arm and he said:” oh look over there sweetie”.

I turned around and there it was under a huge tree, 3 baby foxes and their parents. They were playing; the babies were making noises like puppies but with a higher pitch. It was absolutely beautiful; their fur was red brown, the tail was white at the end and they did not see or smells us and were playing just for fun.

I will never forget the scene, this was the only time I have ever seen a real fox in his real territory.

While the fox family was playing, trying to catch each other’s tail, cuddling around we must have made a noise at some point. One of the parents put his nose up and then gave the order to retreat, in a single line they vanished deeper into the woods.

Grandpa and I were both crying and laughing at the same time, he pressed my hand and he said, we just saw something very special and unique.

We got back on the bike and grandpa talked about animals in general for a very long time. When we got out of the woods, it started to rain, we had to cover up but there were still 3 deliveries to be made. We started singing songs and now each house offered hot chocolate to me and a schnapps to grandpa.

When we arrived home the rain really had gotten to us, we both just fell asleep and grandpa did not mention the fox family to anyone.

2 days later it was Passover, in the morning when we all woke up and had breakfast I looked at my mom and thought that she was the prettiest mom in the world with her blue dress, dark hair and blue eyes. I was sitting on her lab, drinking my chocolate and dipping real bread into it for the last time that day.

Dad joined the kitchen in his PJ’s, his hair and he had a lot it was standing up, he had a 3 days beard and everybody told him to shave. I silently asked him not to, he really had the pirate look going and I loved that.

The day was nice and warm and the family decided to have the Seder outside in the courtyard.

While my mom and her sister placed all the place cards and discussed who might come and who might not – we were never quite sure and every year there was a surprise somehow. Dad was told to keep political discussions to a minimum, it would not work anyway, I was not sure why somebody would even tell him that.

Dad woke up with political discussions.

The time to start the Seder had come and we read through the Hagaddah and remembered the story of Passover. At the end the tradition was to go around the table and to have everybody say some thoughts related to Passover.

So my grandpa finally told the story of the fox family and he closed the story by saying that there had been moments in his life when he was not sure if there was a god or not but when he is allowed to actually see the wonders of this world he can feel god’s presence.

The whole table started to cry and hug each other – we are an emotional bunch anyway – at that point I did not really know what he was referring to, it was later when world war II was something I could comprehend that I thought back at this Seder and how lucky I was to have a grandfather like mine.