What do buttons, batteries and bullets have in common?
Let me explain…Passover is the one time of year that I become a fanatic in the realm of cleanliness, though that isn’t really what the holiday is about. Lost in the quest to eradicate all sorts of things we don’t want in our house (bread, leavened products, wheat, rye, barley, etc.), we become distracted by clutter and non-related issues.
Elie comes home tomorrow for a week. His room…well, it was its usual disaster and it would likely take most of his vacation to really clean it, never mind prepare it for the holiday. I started cleaning it a few days ago, determined to shock him when he comes home. Today, I put in more time and his youngest sister asked to help.
Elie had (note the past tense), a wood night stand next to his bed with three drawers. The weight of the contents broke one of the drawers long ago and jammed another. The overflow…well, went into boxes and bags and, well, everywhere. I went in armed with more than a dozen plastic containers…and an 8-year-old who loves order. We worked amazingly well together. We determined which boxes we needed and then she began sorting as I refolded all of his clothes and organized his closet.
Here is where I am divided in which story to tell first – the clothes, or the boxes…I’ll start with the clothes…for no other reason than they left me with a profound feeling, while the boxes left me with a smile.
So – Elie’s clothes come in several varieties…and some new ones. He has a mountain of jeans – I had no idea he had so many pairs – no idea when he got them and I’m pretty sure most won’t fit him anymore. He went into the army weighing more than he does now and with all the running and exercise he has gotten, he’s tightened himself up. The jeans will probably be too large…some of the shirts too small. He’s got more muscle despite the weight loss. In short, his body has changed almost as much as his personality and character have matured.
He has short sleeve shirts and long sleeve shirts…and a mountain of green things. Undershirts (in three different types – no sleeves, short sleeves and long sleeves), shirts, and pants – all green. He has a green army coat and green thermal shirts. He’s got a green hat too. One whole side of his closet is…simply green.
I don’t know why that struck me…but it seemed to be such an intrusive, intrinsic part of his room…seen even more so by the contents of those boxes.
Elie doesn’t love to write. He has an excellent memory and rarely needs to actually take notes. We found many notebooks – most ¾ empty…but we found dozens of pens – perhaps even hundreds. Enough to fill two full containers. There were markers and crayons, pens and pencils. That was two boxes.
Afraid to throw anything out – at all – if it wasn’t clearly garbage, we created a string box for all manner of pieces of string.
We found all sorts of tools – screwdrivers and pieces of drills and we weren’t sure what, so we created a tools box.
We found about 5 toothbrushes and 3 tubes of toothpaste along with several containers of lip balm – so we created a tooth box.
We found a whole bunch of watches and flashlights so we put these together and created a box for that.
We found … well, we called them army things. We put a gun strap in there, some dog tags (yes, they better be extras), spare string for sewing uniforms, extra buttons and just – green things – that was the army box.
We found dozens of batteries in all shapes and forms – that was the battery box.
We found some bullets…that went into the army box (with a note to self to ask him why he leaves some bullets at home).
We found all sorts of medical stuff – bandages, plastic gloves, tourniquets, gauze, and more – that became the medical box.
Elie loves gadgets – but gadgets was too hard a word for Elie’s little sister, so we called it the phone box and put some old cellular phones, extra phone panels, and “stuff” in there.
And we found toys – young children’s toys and partial decks of cards – toy dinosaurs and broken cars, part of an electronic game, and the back cover of another electronic game (too bad they didn’t match) – that went into the “toy” box.
And finally, there were the things that we simply could not identify – tool or toy, army or not. What is it, what part of a thing was it. We simply didn’t know – and so – it went into the “I don’t know” box – we hope Elie will help us identify them all at some point.
It went on and on. Perhaps the funniest moment was when I found a small box with some buttons, some batteries, and a few bullets. Without thinking, I said to his sister, “this must be the B box.” But she was born in Israel and while she understands English, it was too much for her to put it all together. Why DID he have bullets, buttons and batteries in the box? Maybe I’ll ask him tomorrow.
When we finished emptying out the drawers, Elie’s sister washed them all around, scrubbing at the dirt marks to make it clean. It was, in all ways, an endeavor of love for her. She is excited that Elie is coming home tomorrow.
She was touched when she unfolded a piece of paper and found a picture she had made for him and she wants me to remember to tell him that she worked hard in his room too.
When he recovers from the shock of seeing such a lovely room, I will remember to tell him. Passover isn’t about cleaning your homes from the dirt – only about removing bread and leavened products. We clean our homes as a sign of love for the God of Israel, who protects us and watches over us. We do this in memory and gratitude for what God did for the Jewish people – by taking us out of slavery and out of Egypt and bringing us home to this land. More than 2,000 years after that exodus, we are again home in that land. Here in Israel, Passover is our time to show that we are so very glad to be here.
Having just about finished it and knowing that the Passover cleaning part of his room could have been accomplished in a fraction of the time, I can only conclude that cleaning Elie’s room wasn’t really about Passover – it was about showing Elie our love, our way of telling him we are glad he is coming home.