If you had asked me when I first got married, when do I start preparing for Passover, my answer would have been something like "Oh crap! It's Passover again already?"
It's not that I was less observant, or less interested. I wouldn't even say I was less organized - 'cause let's face it - I couldn't be any less organized.
I was, however, less attuned to the cycle of the Jewish year. I always knew what holidays fell during the year, but I didn't know when. They were always sneaking up on me. H. would say, "We should really start making some decisions about Passover." I'd wave him off - yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever, we have plenty of time. Then suddenly it would be less than a week before Pesach, all the stores would have run out of chocolate covered macaroons and chocolate chip mandel loaf, and since I would have forgotten to ask for the day(s) before the first seder off from work, I'd be looking at several late nights of deep-cleaning and chometz removal (not to mention thinking up excuses for calling in sick for at least the day of the first seder, since despite the late nights, I'd still be cleaning after the last chometz was burned. Shh. Don't tell.)
Somehow, though, during the past two years, I have learned to remember to consult the Jewish calendar (both the requisite freebie on our kitchen wall and the Outlook calendar at work to which I added the Jewish holidays) ahead of time. This year I marked on the calendar - even before planning for Purim - which days I would request off from work for Pesach. I even sent out a Save the Date email to my family to make sure they could get here for the second seder - at the beginning of March!
I guess to a certain extent you could maybe say I'm more organized also. I did save my planning TO DO lists from last Passover and was actually able to find them for this year. That was pretty amazing. And last year we finally got tired of schlepping the dishes up from the basement for the week, so we moved some things around and found a permanent home for them upstairs.
But really I think it is just a matter of awareness. It has become second nature to look ahead and plan more. Because it was in the forefront of my mind I was actually able to fulfill all four mitzvot for Purim this year: tzedakeh (charity), mishloach manos (gifts of prepared food to friends), seudah (festive meal), and hearing the Megillah (story of Esther) read.
Okay, the only reason I was able to make sholach manos bags for my co-workers was because Chef Boy-Har-lee made hamantaschen ahead of time. And the only reason I got to go to a Seudah and hear the Megillah (the full Megillah - not the puppet version we took E. to on Thursday night) was thanks to this year's odd timing of Purim ending just before Shabbat. Last night we went to a Chabad Hawaiian Purim Seudah/ Shabbat dinner. It was a lot of fun and they did the fastest Megillah reading possibly in the history of man, to get it done before candlelighting.
And so, with Purim behind us, both H. and I woke up this morning, looked at each other and said, "As soon as Shabbat ends we have to start planning for Passover." A warm fuzzy feeling crept over me as I reveled in the feeling of shared values and seven years of learned habits. I remembered how much fun last year's giant second seder was - our biggest ever - with 20 people crammed into our tiny little livingroom, and thought, "If we made that work, this year will be a piece of cake."
...Until H. announced, "Oh, by the way, I invited an extra nine people to the the seder this year."
Good thing we are starting planning so early. I think I know how we can get the couch out of the livingroom...the piano, though, is going to take some serious thought.