I always dreaded the arrival of Purim because that meant I had to come up with Purim costumes. Or rather, my kids came up with what they wanted to be, and I had to make it happen. All of three of them attended Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School, where the Purim carnival is a big deal, as was attending the community carnival at the JCC.
While my daughter’s fanciest costume as a mermaid required me to relinquish a shimmery turquoise fabric I had bought years ago in Paris to make a cocktail dress for myself (that wasn’t going to happen anyway) and drape it around her waist for a long, trailing skirt, my older son’s imagination required way more of my own creativity.
When he was six, he decided he wanted to be the robot R2D2 from Star Wars. Once he decides on something, there’s no dissuading him, no matter how impractical it is. But it turned out that, once I put my mind to it, constructing R2D2 wasn’t that hard. I rolled cardboard from a large box into a tube wide enough for him to stand in and covered it with aluminum foil. One side had a “door” flap so he could come in and out. Blue painter’s tape provided R2D2’s stripes. For the “helmet” I turned one of my metal mixing bowls upside down and taped it to the cardboard tube, and a detachable bicycle rear light affixed to the bowl provided R2D2’s blinking capacities. Peepholes and two glued-on “handles” inside let my son move around; he could even park R2D2 and party a bit before slipping back into his robot mantel.
I still consider R2D2 our best Purim costume because it was ingenious yet simple. However, the R2D2 success led to a bigger challenge the following Purim: Now my son wanted to be C3PO. Constructing a blinking, rolling metal can is one thing, constructing a golden skeleton is another! My son, of course, did not relent, and so, a week before Purim, when I couldn’t escape the task any longer, I took him to Home Depot, hoping to either find a solution, or prove to him that the task was impossible. As we walked through the aisles, him chattering about the fact that all we needed was some golden spray paint (not so easy either as you can’t get spray paint in the city of Chicago), we happened upon the plumbing supplies and all kinds of pipes. There I spotted the solution: Lightweight, bendable aluminum pipes, typically used for air vents, wide enough for my son’s limbs to fit through. He assured me he could make the torso’s shield out of cardboard covered in golden foil, and so we bought the pipes and some thick wire that I figured I’d use to create rings to attach the limbs (punching holes into the pipes proved harder than I thought and the jagged edges were scratchy). Next thing I knew, I found myself downstairs in our backyard, cold and drafty as it is in March in Chicago, aiming golden spray paint at aluminum limbs that hung off the back stairs landing on wire clothes hangers. C3PO’s golden pipe-and-cardboard skeleton was harder to get in and out of than R2D2’s can had been, but we did it. My son fashioned a helmet out of aluminum foil that we spray-painted golden, and he did go to the Purim Carnival clattering around as C3PO.
Next year’s Purim costume was going to be an astronaut, way easier than C3PO, but I did stress out over how to create a see-through bubble helmet that would make the costume’s otherwise plain white clothing resemble a spacesuit. On another trip to Home Depot I noticed a cheap wall clock with a clear, round, slightly bulging plastic cover that I could easily pop out and use for the astronaut helmet’s visor. While nothing but fun memories of our persistence and creativity are left of R2D2 and C3PO, the kitschy, coverless wall clock still sits on the bookshelf of my son’s room, a reminder your ideas can be brought to life if you don’t give up, and if you’re willing to look for resources in all kinds of places.