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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Purim Madness

An explanation and perhaps a dose of cheap therapy:

We do Purim hardcore in my house.

This is not how I grew up doing Purim nor is it Josh's tradition. I have taken an idea in my head and run it into the ground, creating a gigantic hole of a holiday to suck in all unsuspecting occupants of my household. And it's the only way that feels right--I absolutely love being in the middle of this right now. On Sunday night, when we were getting into bed well after midnight, reeking of chocolate caramel, Josh jokingly barked at me, "it's fucking Purim and we're fucking having fun right now. Won't you all just fucking enjoy this fucking PURIM!"

And we laughed until we cried in that Dan Fogelberg sort of way.

To be fair, I warned him that it was going to be this way. Right after we got married, we were in a fabric store and I commented that I couldn't wait to have children so we could sew Purim costumes. "Sew them?" he asked. He imagined that we'd grab whatever was a little too large at the local Halloween superstore and put it away until the spring. But I had visions of hand-sewn Queen Vashti gowns, embroidered and beaded within an inch of its life. I researched Persian wedding veils, dreaming that I'd recreate a headdress complete with hammered coins and gold threads for my own little Queen Esther's wedding night. All of this work for a costume they would wear one time. I told you, I'm a bleeding psycho when it comes to this holiday.

But here's the thing: I had my first chemical pregnancy the day before Purim and I have been trying to take back the holiday ever since.

Somewhere in that time period, this vision started growing; much like Max and the Wild Things where it started as a few leaves and suddenly his room was a forest. And this vision wasn't about the here and now; it was about creating something for the future. I'm sure many people have these small movies that play in their head, connected to a holiday or a special location that continuously visit. My movie involved all of my children opening up their mishloach manot baskets when they were in their twenties and thirties.

In the first scene, a boy is undoing his tie and he's catching up with his wife about their day (she's sprawled across their bed, fully dressed). His wife says, "oh, and your mum's mishloach manot basket came today."

"My mum?" my son says, disappearing into his closet to hang up the tie. "My mum is a fucking nut-job." But he's smiling while he says this.

In the next scene, my daughter is shuffling towards her apartment, obviously upset about something and she pauses when she sees my box on the floor outside her front door. She starts crying in earnest as she picks up the box and opening it is the first thing she does when she gets through the door. She has a long cry, clutching something from the box to her chest. And then she calls me and tells me about her terrible day. But that box is what she thinks about years down the line after I'm gone--how it came at just the right moment.

In the next scene, another son is opening the box with his children and they're all scrambling to be closest to the candy as it comes out of the box. "You know that they're never going to go to bed if you let them eat candy right now," his partner says.

"Come on," my son replies. "It's Purim."

In the next scene, another daughter is frantically baking, moving one sheet of hamantaschen over to the cooling racks while she places another in the oven. "Why are you driving yourself crazy?" her friend asks, sitting on top of the counter.

"Because...because my mother's box arrived today and I have to get mine out tomorrow if they're going to be there in time."

And she can't explain why she does it, but she does it nonetheless.

In the last scene, my youngest son is eating the candy with his girlfriend and he's falling in love with her because he sees that she has the qualities that he has been looking for all his life. And he's considering marrying her because he's thinking about family and home and all of those threads that still tie us together through these boxes of cookies and candy that come through the mail.

I know these images aren't very realistic by this point. First and foremost, we will probably never get to have that many children. Secondly, all of these scenes are above ground and we all know that at some point, we'll be living like moles a la 12 Monkeys.

But that is why I do what I do right now. Because I want it to be a foundation that other people stand on later. That it becomes a memory they return to when they think about holidays and family and what we do for others. That it's something they always talk fondly about after I'm gone--your Great-Grandma Melissa, she was a bit of a nut-job, but she made a damn fine toffee every year for Purim.

Somehow building something undoes the loss. Because I miss something every year at this time. I really miss something. So I build it bigger and bigger and bigger and draw in more and more people. We started out just giving mishloach manot to family and a few friends we saw in shul during the Purim service. And by this year, it has grown into a list of thirty or so people and we spend days hand-delivering and mailing these packages of candy and cookies and toys. We let the kids each pick a person to give mishloach manot this year too. Next year, maybe our list will contain 35 people and after that, 40. And one day, it will become a year-long project.

This year, we also let the twins design their costumes. The Wolvog is going as an iPhone--his choice--and he had me add silver Apple insignias to each sleeve and to the back. Josh is going as an iPod Classic (get it? He's the classic Apple product; the Wolvog is the new Apple product. Get it?). The ChickieNob dreamed up a pink, floor-length gown with a long train that can be bustled when she gets down--fresh and funky--at the Purim parade.

It's worth it--it's worth not sleeping for a week or two and getting myself completely stressed out and letting the house go to shit and not eating well (aaah, said like a true nut-job). It's worth it when the last package is delivered and the parade is starting and it's all moving in slow motion and your mind is both back there and here now and you're thinking to yourself--I am filling up a pitcher with a hole in it and my stream of love is finally moving faster than the leak. I am filling this broken pitcher. I am beating this fucking pitcher and I am going to win in the end and be able to pour out all of this love on my own terms. Because I can fill faster than the hole can leak by now.

But it wasn't always that way.

So that's why I do what I do at this time each year. And if you have eaten one of my baskets, you've helped provide me with a cup to fill once I got the pitcher full. So thank you.


Patricia said...

I delurk in the midst of my own madness (and I know everyone has their own) to tell you that I Just Plain Love This.

The Traditions In Waiting are what I miss most. But then, I miss everything "most" at some time or another. I'm so freaking tired of waiting, I could scream. To know that you are making up for lost time as well as charging ahead... well it gives me hope. And so often in this mess, hope is what we all cling to when everything else falls away.

Thank you.

Jess said...

I have this issue with Christmas. I think the brain trauma there with me is similar to what you're describing here. It's a FAMILY holiday about CHILDREN and has always been a favorite of mine but when we COULDN'T have kids...well, I just made it bigger and bigger...and now that we DO have kids, of course it just has to be even BETTER and even BIGGER because it's ALL.FOR.THEM (and of course, for me, to make up for the lost years.).

I'm so intrigued by Purim. I want pics of the costumes!! And recipes...we want recipes!

Jackie said...

This is an amazing beautiful post and so eloquently speaks to me about what family is about. I especially love your visions about your children and how they will experience Purim in the future. I just love and admire so much about you and I think this post encapsulates what it is that draws me to your blog. Argh, crying at work again. Very happy tears, though, thank you!

Jendeis said...

Amen, sister. I have the standard dream about how we'll tell our parents that we're pregnant. My favorite dream though is where our son is dating The One and he's talking about each member of our family before she meets us.

BTW, surely magic and love and the secret ingredients in your Purim candies. The sea salt chocolate was out of this world!

Sunny said...

Beautiful. That is what I have been doing in my head about my mom and my someday children. I so get it.

loribeth said...

Great post. I understand the whole "movie in the head" thing & the importance of carrying on traditions, being a stickler for them myself. On the other hand -- strangely enough, I have just been playing around with a post about Easter & how holidays are different & sometimes traditions go by the wayside when you don't have kids. I'll post it when I get home.

bethberg said...

I actually just teared up a little reading about your visions of the future and your mishloach manot baskets.
Chag Sameach!

Dianne/Flutter said...

Your post - like so many others you've written - is beautiful! Thank you for sharing. I love all the visuals.

They only call you crazy or a nut job, because they have no idea HOW you manage it all. But, are very glad that you do.

Cathy said...

Something about this made me cry.

Holidays when I was a kid always seemed so special. We had all these traditions and it was always great - and they have fallen further and further apart over the years. And now I need to define traditions for my kids. I'm not sure how.

In any case, Purim is SO MUCH FUN. I have limited experience with it (as a non-Jew), but the years I participated were great. And your candy sounds fabulous!

Io said...

As always, you have written a beautiful post. I have daydreams about my future children thinking I am a nut, just as I love my mom, but think she is a nut. A very lovable nut.
And I am totally bringing it! Obviously you have some fantastic dressing up and candy, but I still don't think you can binge drink like my Irish brethren.

Nessa said...

Mel -

Reading this post was a wake-up call. And it has nothing to do with Purim or holidays.

For so long I've been focusing on the goal of a pregnancy, a baby, that I'd forgotten about the real meaning - parenthood. And the fact that parenthood doesn't end when they leave the house, it is something that continues until the day I die.

Your "movie" made me remember that. How badly I want to create traditions that my children will remember and look fondly on years after they've left home. That is what this hell is all about - not the sweet baby or the pregnany (those are bonuses) but the family that will be years down the road. Thank you. Now I am crying at work. You turd.

amy said...

This post made me laugh out loud and get a little teary eyed too. It also made me crave some of your purim candies and cookies. Where do we sign up to get on the list for the baskets?? :)

Thanks for all you do!!


Lori said...

This is sweet is so many ways.

"Secondly, all of these scenes are above ground and we all know that at some point, we'll be living like moles a la 12 Monkeys." Snicker.

Love the image of filling with love faster than any lead.

Can I help you fill? By eating one of your baskets?

In the name of friendship, of course.

decemberbaby said...

Wow. Chag Sameach!

I, too, love Purim. We do mishloach manot in a major way (although this year we've cut back since we're so wrapped up with learning to be parents). I always make my own costume. One year I was a giant hamentaschen (hamentasch? what is the singular?), the next year I was the paper bag princess. This year Kali and I are going as a kangaroo and its joey.

Anyhow, this is a fabulous post. It spoke straight to my heart.

Sassy said...

Thank you for sharing this. It really touched me. The little movies of your children, just beautiful.

I think there's something healing in the preparing of food for others. All the time and love you put in to something people consume. If I was honest I might suggest that's what is behind my constant cupcake baking.

Denise said...

You have me bawling, Mel.

luna said...

ah, tradition!

beautiful post of the vision of your family and community, and so much more.

though I am sad to say I'm in loribeth's camp -- I think much holiday spirit is lost when not viewed through the eyes of children. and the traditions are lost too.

Shaken Mama said...

Yum! Can we come over?

One expression that comes in handy a great deal for my family is from the movie "Vacation"...

"We're going to have so much fun we're going to need plastic surgery to wipe the smiles from our faces!"

This can be applied to anything Fogelbergy.

Lisa said...

Beautiful, Mel, and I completely understand. Purim doesn't hit me as hard as Passover, where I look around our seder table and the youngest "child" is 24 years old. It's made even harder because the due date of my ectopic was mid-April. I would have had a 2 year old this Passover...........

kate said...

Your "pitcher" analogy brought tears to my eyes. It does feel like that sometimes, trying to make sure the love pours out fast enough to beat the leak. Man. Gotta compose myself and quit reading your blog at my desk! They think I'm enough of a freak anyway without the tears.

But thank you. That was a very moving post.

kate said...

Oh, and for December Baby, the singular of Taschen is Tasche, pronounced tash-uh.

I can pretend to know something about German/Yiddish noun conjugations, but I'd be lying. The truth is my husband teaches German, and I've asked him a number of times how to say, "Douchebag" in German (or a bunch of douchebags), and the root noun is the same, Tasche/Taschen (bag or purse).

Celeste said...

Reading this post was particularly special for me now... I feel like I may finally, finally get to the point in my life where building ritual and tradition is worth something. It's amazing, the void that infertility creates, and the number of things that go into a holding pattern. I can't wait to create my own traditions, and love that you share yours with us.

ms. c said...

DId you cry while composing this? Cuz, I can' stop the tears from coming!! This was so wonderfully written. Purim is such a great holiday to celebrate, and I'm thrilled that you taking it back.

Your jug is always so full, you give so much (all year, in so many ways.) Thank you.

Chag sameach to you, Josh and the kids! (Can we see some pics of the costumes??)

Bea said...

I loved this post. I was tearing up at the visions and all of a sudden:

"Secondly, all of these scenes are above ground and we all know that at some point, we'll be living like moles a la 12 Monkeys."

...then the rest just fell into place and made sense.


annacyclopedia said...

Thank you so much for this beautiful post, Mel. I loved it the first time I read it, but just now it was exactly what my heart needs to hear. I'm thinking of printing it out and hanging it on my fridge this weekend while I do my own pitcher-filling, just to remind me that's what I'm doing, and not just driving myself nuts.

Julia said...

This brought tears to my eyes and had me smiling through them.
I got our hamentashem recipe from my grandmother while she could still articulate it throughly. I had made them for years, and on grand scale. But then I didn't. My sister made them this year, and my daughter loved them much more than the American cookie version. She has been working on the leftovers for over a week now. Made me happy to have my sister in the same city, again. My daughter's preference made me all warm and fuzzy with the whole family connections thing too.
And thanks for the warning not to see 12 Monkeys. Tee-hee-hee...