Now that we are officially in the Jewish month of Adar, I am in a complete Purim panic. I do not panic about baking hamantaschen, because for the sake of all involved, I do not bake. I do not panic about putting together mishloach manot for friends and neighbors, because I generally believe that less is more. (If you get a Ziploc with two Twizzlers and an Oreo inside, you’re quite welcome.)
No, I panic because Purim to me represents the yearly realization that my children might be completely missing the “dorky costume gene,” a gene which was so pivotal to my own childhood.
I don’t know whether it was poor body image, an overactive imagination, or a combination of the two, but year after year, while all the other girls aimed for costumes that were first cute, then pretty, and–a few years later–sexy, I continually opted for bulky, unwieldy, and never entirely successful Purim costumes. As far as I was concerned, a winning costume was an uncomfortable one.
8 years old: I was a bumblebee. All I recall is a black unitard, possibly some unfortunate face paint, a pillow shoved down my front and several shoved down the back of my tights. I think I was also wrapped in rings of yellow streamer which ripped every time I moved a limb or sat down.
All the other girls were fairies.
10 years old: I was a television set. This being the early-eighties, I made sure that I had a painted shell ashtray glued to the top of the large cardboard box into which I climbed. (Looking back, I imagine I had to look far and wide for a large, empty box. Today, there is a permanent mountain of them perched near my front door.) The ashtray sat right next to an outsized, foil-wrapped antenna that was placed where my head ought to be. Consequently, I had to walk with my neck cocked to one side.
All the other girls were Princess Diana.
12 years old: I was a tree. This one was particularly clever, or so I thought at the time. I wrapped my body in brown paper and then ripped some branches off a nearby shrub and attached them to a hat (no more lopsided walking for me, thank you very much). It seems that I picked the wrong tree to vandalize, because this one was especially appealing to a swarm of flies that circled my head for the entirety of Purim.
All the other girl were Madonna.
I think I tried to cotton on to the sexy thing in high school and briefly thought about a Cleopatra outfit, but I just couldn’t do it. I really wanted to be a VCR, but I sensed that may be too derivative of my earlier success as a television, so I opted instead to be a UFO. I must be blocking the experience from my mind, because I don’t remember much except for a surfeit of saran wrap and not being able to fit into the car. (Not surprisingly, to me, not being able to fit in the car was a sign of costume success.)
All the other girls were slutty cocktail waitresses.
As a parent, I thought I’d get to imbue my children with my own spirit of Purim. Even though my girls express zero desire to follow in my well-intended but poorly-conceived costume footsteps, each year, I have a go at convincing them.
This year it went something like this:
Me: Purim is coming! Who wants to be an iPhone? (I was sure this would work. Those kids would sell each other for an iPhone; even a large, cardboard imitation.)
3-year-old: I want to be Hello Kitty. I love Hello Kitty.
Me: She has no mouth. She cannot speak for herself. You can’t be Hello Kitty. Be a Cheerio! (I had images of her climbing into a large circle of painted foam. Adorable.)
5-year-old: I’ve thought about it and I want to be a fairy-mermaid-princess-angel.
Me: That’s four things, all of which you’ve been before, many times. Don’t you want to be a spoon? (Tin foil. Lots of tin foil. Genius.)
7-year-old: I’m going to be a cute flight attendant. That way you can buy me a pencil skirt.
Dear god, where have I gone wrong? Costumes are not about clothes you can wear again. They are about large, unwieldy pieces of foam, cardboard, or tree branches that will allow you to disappear into the skin of an inanimate object. Who doesn’t want that?
Apparently, they don’t. Nor do my boys, who insist on being football players year after year. This requires that I do no more than procure a jersey and buy some of that black lipstick that goes under their eyes. Where is the fun in that?
Purim is yet another reminder that if nothing else, parenting (at least for me) is about completely letting go of all preconceived notions or expectations and then winging it.
But just in case anyone has second thoughts, I’m holding on to all the cardboard, and saving scraps of metal under my bed. I like to be ready for anything.