When my younger daughter finished elementary school, I was not quite ready to go. My kids had been at the school for about 10 years, and I had loved just about every minute of it–from being room parent to becoming PTO President; from serving on nearly every committee to starting new programs. But my kids were now too old to attend, and it was time for all of us to move on.
The head of the elementary school cafeteria was a woman we all loved, whom we called Ms. S. After her son started at the school, she took the job, with its convenient hours and the ability to stay in the same place as her youngest child. She was good at it. She ran the cafeteria smoothly and efficiently. But most of all, she was very personable, easy to talk to, and very funny. The kids loved her, and she would perform in their talent shows and put on skits and always have a smile on her face.
I was talking to Ms. S. one day around the Purim my younger daughter was in fifth grade. She would be leaving the school in a few months, and I had become painfully aware of all the “lasts” we would have. I told Ms. S that I needed to go home to make my hamantaschen, and because I knew she was of some Christian denomination, I assumed that she might not know what hamantaschen were.
“Oh, I love hamantaschen!” she said enthusiastically. (That’s how Ms S. was–enthusiastic about everything.) “I used to work in an old age home and they brought hamantaschen every Purim to the lady I took care of. I like the strawberry ones.”
So when I went home to make hamantaschen with my girls–baking being one of our very favorite activities to do together–I put aside a few strawberry hamantaschen for Ms. S and gave them to her the next day. She was delighted. “I’m not going to share them with anyone!” she said excitedly. “I’m going to hide them from my kids!” She bit into one. “These are the best hamantaschen I’ve ever had!” Her eyes lit up. “It’s too bad that I’ll never get anymore, what with your daughter moving onto middle school next year.”
I thought hmmm, and made a mental note.
My daughter did go onto middle school the next year and I adjusted to not being a room parent or a PTO President or a volunteer at school. I read and wrote more, contemplated my changing life. And it was OK. I really didn’t mind. It was a relief, in some ways, to get the time back. But near Purim, when I started my hamantaschen baking, I set aside some for Ms. S again, and brought them to her at the elementary school. It seemed not so different–the kids were the same and the teachers were the same and I nodded and smiled at them, caught up with some, and chatted with the principal. It felt good to be back.
And then I went to find Ms. S. To say that she was thrilled is an understatement. She gave me a huge hug, talked louder than ever, and pressed the bag of cookies to her chest. “You make the best hamantaschen!” she said. “I’m not sharing them with anyone!”
And so, for the last six years, this has been our routine. I make her hamantaschen–always strawberry. I pack them up. I go back to the elementary school. The kids there seem much smaller now. Some of the same teachers are there, but many have left, replaced with people I don’t know. I chat with the front office staff, who have known my girls since they were 5. I catch up with the principal, who is retiring this June. I go down the hallway to the cafeteria. Ms. S will be waiting for me.
“I saw that Purim was coming up this week, and I wondered if you would come,” she’ll say, even though she knows I would never miss a year. And I’ll give her the bag. And she’ll hug me. For a minute, I’ll feel a part of the school again. And then I’ll go home. Until next year.