As the pandemic surge approaches, we have been preparing for Passover—a deep and bitter irony, given the role that the Ten Plagues play in the Exodus story, the Seder’s focal point. Over the weekend, I wrote a condensed version of the Passover narrative that we’ll share with family and friends across the country Wednesday night via Zoom, in place of our traditional festive gathering. Certainly not the same as being together, but making the best of the situation.
And so, we’ve been cleaning the house, Al and I. We had to pause our biweekly cleaning service, given the risks of sharing unwanted germs, and sent them a check to help tide them over. Al’s done the heavy work, and I’m in charge of dusting. So long as I’m very careful and wear cotton gloves, I can avoid damaging my fingers. But I’m slow, as a result, and we have a lot of tchatchkies.
Still, there is something about revisiting all those little statues and knickknacks, remembering where we got them and when, and arranging them exactly as I want. The house looks clean and orderly, more so than usual, because we’re the ones doing the work and paying attention to dust hiding in nooks and crannies. We finally put away all the books that had been cluttering the living room coffee table, leaving a manageable stack to be read. I shipped a box full of electronic cords, cables, CDs, and DVDs to a recycling center in Washington State that was still taking donations.
It feels good to get ready for the holiday, not the usual dreaded chore. Life is so strange right now, seemingly normal in some ways and totally upside down in others. Cleaning and organizing our home is one way to regain at least some sense of control, and keeping our religious traditions means that COVID-19 is not in charge of what we do. It’s also a wonderful way to connect with those we love, even if we can’t see them in person this year.
All this is all the more important as the number of cases here in Massachusetts increases exponentially. Our city is well prepared, and the Commonwealth is undertaking a first-in-the-nation initiative with the global NGO Partners in Health to track contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19, in an effort to detect infection hot spots and contain the virus. I find this reassuring.
And yet. A couple of weeks ago, when I took my walk around the neighborhood, I overheard folks chatting about someone who knew someone who got the virus when their kid came home from Spain. A few days later, I passed by a group discussing personal experience with having had it and gotten over it (fortunately for the couple, it sounded as if they’d had a mild case). Yesterday, on my walk, for the first time I saw an ambulance outside someone’s house. I haven’t heard sirens in the neighborhood, but I know that’s inevitable.
The weather as I write is sunny and mild. Forsythias are blooming, leaves on the trees are just barely visible, and miniature daffodils brighten our rock garden with a splash of gold. Pandemic or not, spring is here. For that, for every morning that I awake with an easy, deep breath and know my family and friends are well, I am grateful. I hope you are safe and well, too.