I knew exactly what my mother meant by “organizing and cleaning” my closet for Pesach.
I would need a miracle to please her
"Ahhh, the joy of Pesach cleaning!” said no one ever. At least no one who shares a similar genetic makeup with me.
Whoever said that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree never met my mother and me. Unfortunately, in our scenario, the apple rolled far, far, far away from the tree and perhaps was even crated and shipped off to another universe. That’s how different the two of us are.
I’m convinced that when my mother was a student, her neat writing stood like perfect soldiers on the page and words stayed within the margins of her loose-leaf paper. I’m sure she never forgot to do her homework and always submitted assignments on time.
My notes, if you can even call them notes, are artistically designed with doodle masterpieces and swirly fonts dancing gracefully in and out of the margins. I always forget to do my homework and submit my assignments a day after the deadline.
Take another example: my morning ritual. Until my mother decided I was old enough to prepare my own clothes in the morning, she would lay them out perfectly the night before: shirt, skirt, socks, and shoes. Nowadays I yank stuff off the hangers and pull four pairs of shoes out of the closet through bleary eyes, minutes before loud honking announces the arrival of my bus.
Okay, so I think you get the picture. Or at least a vague idea.
Anyway, before Pesach (that means before Purim in our house) my mother approached me with an unidentifiable expression imprinted on her perfectly made-up face. I prophetically predicted there was a bombshell coming.
“Etty, Pesach is a few weeks away. Tatty and I decided that this year you are mature enough to clean and organize your own closet for Pesach. If I were you, I would not procrastinate. You have enough time to do the job well if you start as soon as possible. You know from experience that if you leave things for the last minute…”
She didn’t need to finish her sentence to remind me of the time I offered to bake a three-tiered cake for a class party and only remembered my offer the morning of the party. I spent the entire morning phoning bakeries to find out if any of them sold three-tiered cakes. Then, I went through the embarrassment of having my father drive me to the other side of town to pick up a three-tiered cake… a very nebby three-tiered cake. (If you wonder why I offered such an extravagant contribution, I’m actually capable of pulling off said cake. But not an hour before the party.)
So, after the bombshell (See? I’m a prophet) my tongue became paralyzed with fear. This is the worst decision my parents ever made, I thought miserably.
My mother stood in front of me waiting for a reaction, but none was forthcoming.
“What about Lucy? Can’t she come a few more hours a week and do my closet?” I blurted out.
“You have good ideas, Etty, but Lucy has a very organized list of things to tackle before Yom Tov. I allotted her chores into the number of hours I’m planning to have her help me. Why should we employ her for extra hours now if you’ll have lots of spare time being home from school? You’re creative. Think of a way to get it done. I’m not asking you for much. It’s just your closet, and that’s it.”
Her attempt at sounding encouraging failed miserably.
My feet took me forcibly to my room. I opened my closet doors to survey the situation. And quickly closed them. Opened them again. And shut them again. The sight of the closet innards made me cringe.
Don’t get me wrong, my closet is extremely organized. In an artsy way, though. If you ask my mother, she’ll blush crimson with the mere mention of Etty’s closet. But ask me, and I’ll gladly navigate you through the piles of clothes, collections, drawings, and stuff. At first glance, everything may look like a mumble-jumble of clutter, but very smart people can see through the veneer of disorder and realize the value and worth of this kind of organization. Like in the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” where his new clothes were supposedly invisible to those unfit or incompetent, while in reality, there were no clothes at all. (Sort of. Because in reality, there is organization in my closet.)
Accepting that my closet required a transformation was unthinkable. I wanted my closet to retain the “orderliness” I was accustomed to. But deep down I knew exactly what my mother meant by “organizing and cleaning” my closet for Pesach. I would need a miracle to please her. For now though, procrastination was the key.
With the closet doors shut I felt much calmer. My mind was clear enough to conjure a strategic plan. I remembered something my teacher had said: “Girls, the Yidden’s redemption was highly unexpected. They were busy preparing dough for bread without an inkling of what was to come. They didn’t even have time to bake their dough! Hashem’s salvation can come in the blink of an eye.”
Blinking my eyes brought no instants results or personal redemption, but I still refused to give up. Hashem knows how I abhor cleaning, He will send me my personal redemption in the blink of an eye, I thought with conviction.
I realized that Lucy was my salvation. She had extra hours available, was cutout for the job, and knew my room inside out. All I needed was to come up with the necessary funds to pay her. Where? How? And when?
Instead of doing what I needed to do, I immersed myself in the Seder table decor. My heart and soul were completely in it. My mind was almost fully in it, but with my mother constantly dropping gentle reminders, I couldn’t completely forget about my closet.
“Etty, are you getting anywhere with your closet?” she asked while I was helping her polish silver one day.
“I see you know Pesach is coming,” she said with a smirk while fingering the crystal napkin rings I was beading.
“I love the way you spray-painted the mini goblets. You gave them a complete makeover! Did your closet merit that too?” she remarked yet another time.
While working on all the glitzy table decor, I considered selling some for a profit. But then it struck me that I’ll need to sell an awful lot to cover one hour of Lucy’s time. And my closet needed many hours of work.
Hashem’s salvation comes in the blink of an eye. You will be redeemed of your galus soon. I repeated it time and time again. But that anticipated salvation was apparently delayed, and Pesach was imminent.
A week before Pesach, my friend’s sister Raizy, a playgroup teacher, called me hysterically.
“I need a rush job. Please, please, please, will you do it for me?”
“Can I hear what it’s all about?”
“We lost the cover we use for our Haggados, don’t ask me how. Anyway, I have a very specific look that I want. Are you available to come over to the playgroup now, and I’ll show you what I have in mind? Do you think you can draw it for us? I’ll make sure it’s worth it for you.”
In less than a minute I was in front of the playgroup door, which thankfully was located at my corner, and in less than an hour, Raizy had a brand-new, beautiful cover. Well, don’t the things we enjoy happen in a jiffy? Don’t you just glide through those chores gracefully?
Did I mention that Raizy paid me on the spot? And generously to boot.
The spring in my step on the way home was unmistakable. My mother threw me a look from the Pesach kitchen amid the whirring of blenders, beaters, and mixers. I almost saw the word closet coming out of her mouth, but I managed a safe escape. With the hundred-dollar bill in my hand, I approached Lucy. She was busy soaking the refrigerator drawers in the bathtub.
“Lucy, do you think you can stay a little later today and clean my closet? You’ll get this.” I begged pitifully, almost falling on my knees like Haman did before Esther in the middle of her seudah with Achashveirosh.
Her eyes sparkled at the sight of the bill. “No problem, Miss.” She resumed her scrubbing with renewed vigor, a bit of soapy water splattering on my face. I didn’t care.
Yes, Hashem’s salvation comes in the blink of an eye.
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 806)
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