T he clock ticks. As I lift a weary hand to tuck a straggling hair back into my snood, I note the time. It’s 2:30 a.m.
The house is quiet. Well, except for my husband’s snores and one of the boys mumbling in his sleep. I look at all that I’ve accomplished. It’s truly marvelous how much one can do in the middle of the night when there’s no one around to interfere, I think.
The second late-night cleaning stint is not quite as productive. I no longer marvel at what has been cleaned, but contemplate how much more needs to get done before we sit down to the Seder. I’m starting to feel completely overwhelmed.
After several such nights I hit the panic button. Full-fledged panic mode is not a good place to be. Every fiber of my body aches with fatigue. Yet I push myself on to the next task.
I work to a backdrop of mental sobbing. This is impossible! You’ll never get everything done. Then another voice chimes in: Just keep going, you can’t stop, just keep working, scrub, scrub, scrub!
My heart is filled with a medley of negative emotions. Regret, anger, self-recrimination, and despair all vie for a place in my constantly shrinking mental awareness. There comes a point each night when I simply cannot keep my droopy eyes from shutting. I drag myself to bed. It seems I have only just lain down when I am forced to get up to send the kids off to school.
Throughout the days of Nissan, I am short on patience and long on scolding. My eyes are red from lack of sleep and I see red at the slightest offense. I need help. Please! Yet whatever my husband and children do does not please.
By the time I reach Leil Haseder, I am beyond exhausted. I fight to just keep my eyes open. I cannot process what’s being said. I rouse myself enough to prompt the youngest child to ask the Mah Nishtanah.
When we reach vayehi bachatzi halailah, it is well past midnight. I cast surreptitious glances at the clock, trying to figure out if it’s close enough to when the lights will turn off to warrant clearing the table. The beauty of the words and melodies are lost. The only words reverberating through my hazy state of consciousness is a plaintive cry: “I’m soooo tired. I just want to go to sleep.”
These memories of Pesachs past are so vivid that as Nissan approaches once again, I tell myself, “Not this year.”
Why is this year different from all the other years? Because this year, I will be in bed every night by midnight.
One of my husband’s favorite lines is, “If you’re tired, go to sleep.”
Simple enough for a man to say, I always thought. But if I go to sleep every time I feel tired, who will cook for Shabbos? Who will wash the dirty dishes? Who will sate the hungry washing machine? Who will fold the clothing and put it all away? Who will feed the baby in the middle of the night? And who, I’d like to know, who will clean this house for Pesach?
But this year, everything is different. The sun may have set on Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Nissan and the marathon may have begun, but I am one step ahead. For Shabbos, I serve on disposables. (To give you an idea of my attitude toward this practice, these paper goods were left over from Shabbos Chanukah, when the number of guests we had exceeded my service for 12.) This allows me to get down to serious cleaning on Motzaei Shabbos, as soon as the younger kids are in bed.
I work with the freshness all beginnings bring. However, as midnight approaches, tiredness, which has been silently stalking me for a while, makes its presence known. And then my marvelous Pesach preparation plan is, for the very first time, put into practice. Some women make chatzos hayom each Friday. I will make chatzos or midnight each night of Nissan.
Some nights it means giving a task a super quick finish. Other nights it means stopping smack in the middle of something. And if I am really tired, I might call it a night at ten and not even start the next cleaning job on the list. There are nights when I suffice with a two-minute shower. But by hook or by crook, I am in bed by midnight. As the saying goes, “Do your best and leave the rest.” I simply added in, “And get some rest!”
I reach Leil Haseder without the usual feeling of thorough exhaustion. I am fully alert and able to focus on the meaning of the words. I appreciate the beauty of the singing. I do not even glance at the clock to see how late it is. When my husband finishes singing vayehi bachatzi halailah, he turns to check the time.
“It was mamesh now,” he comments. “Right now it’s chatzos. This is when all the marvelous nissim happened.”
My husband is happy. It has been a marvelous Seder. We even made chatzos.
I am happy too. I have been a real participant at the Seder. The biggest marvel of all is that I am awake enough on this leil hashimurim to reflect that midnight marvels never cease.