Cleaning the kitchen for Pesach yesterday I heard the voices of my loved ones who are gone but whose memories live on and return to keep me company. I kneeled to scrub the inside of the oven and suddenly could smell the chicken soup and matzah balls that my grandmother used to make in her apartment in the Bronx and could hear her whisper "A Gooten Pesach" into my ear. Standing at the sink, I washed the racks from the oven, and I heard Uncle Nate telling another joke, just as he used to do when we stood together at the sink after the seder washing and drying dishes, glasses, and silverware. I could almost taste the brisket and compote Aunt Sylvia used to make, could hear her complaining as she tested the meat that it still wasn't done. I could feel the flutter of butterflies in my stomach as I remembered standing and asking the Four Questions, so afraid I'd make a mistake and ruin everyone's chances of leaving Egypt and escaping to freedom. If I shut my eyes I could almost see Elijah arriving through the open door to sip the wine overflowing from the goblet that we set for him in the middle of the table. I could feel in my hand the warm coins—two silver dollars—that Grandpa gave us for returning the afikomen, and I could taste the dry pieces of matzah that we saved and ate for dessert. On the night of the seder, after my knees stopped shaking, I always felt as if we were all wrapped in a cocoon of love that would keep us safe years later, long after everyone else at that table (except for my brother and me) were gone. Now it's just the two of us, still cleaning our kitchens for Pesach, still hearing the voices of those we loved as they return to help us celebrate the holiday again.
Bruce Black is the author of Writing Yoga (Rodmell Press/Shambhala) and editorial director of The Jewish Writing Project. He received his BA from Columbia University and his MFA from Vermont College. His work has appeared in Elephant Journal, Blue Lyra Review, Tiferet Journal, Hevria, Poetica, Reform Judaism, The Jewish Literary Journal, Mindbodygreen, Yogi Times, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and elsewhere. He lives in Sarasota, FL.