Lots of things make me happy. Watching waves crash on the shore. Feeling the sunshine on my cheek. Falling into a steady rhythm as I cut through the water at the swimming pool. Seeing my nephew break into a smile, as the wind up train I bought him chugs around plastic tracks. Sitting with friends at a café and catching up on each other's lives. Writing the last line of a chapter I'm pleased with. The feeling is so good I want to bottle it up, keep it forever.
Purim doesn't make me happy. Purim makes me sad.
When Adar rolls around, and loudspeakers burst out with "Mishenichnas Adar"s, inside me I want to run away, to somewhere where there are no Purims, or perhaps hide out at home, until the worst has passed.
When I try to speak of it, it sounds odd, peculiar, loner-like and spoilsport-ish. Who doesn't like Purim, the year's official day of happiness?
I used to like Purim, once. When I was a kid, and planned my costume all year. Probably in ninth and tenth grade too, although I don't really remember.
I don't know why I hate it, these days. I don't know why I dread it, and feel like a huge burden is lifted off my shoulders when it's over.
Maybe I can blame it on the year my father was diagnosed with Cancer. Returning to the classroom as Purim carnival preparations were in full swing, joining in, planning and cutting and pasting and dressing up, because I didn't think there was any other way.
Maybe it's the year he was ill at home, and someone came to read the Megillah to him there, as the party went on in Shul.
Maybe it's the year after he died, when we were all putting on brave faces for each other, and we dressed up as gypsies, and strangers in the street asked us to tell their fortunes, and everything was great, on the surface.
There's no real reason, for me to hate Purim. I spend the week before making lists and packing Mishloach Manot, sometimes even themed ones. Once the sun has set I usually scramble around and find a costume to wear to Shul, in the 'if you can't beat them, join them' spirit.
After all, I sat enraptured in Seminary, through the Rabbis' lessons on the deeper meaning of Purim, the light of the hidden miracle, deeper and more intimate than the more obvious battles of Chanukah. I soaked in the Rebbetzins' talks of Purim as a day of prayer, of asking for miracles. So I try to remember, to get into the spirit of the day. I tell myself that this Purim will be different.
Then the hordes of Yeshiva boys arrive, banging on our door, wanting to dance with the nonexistent men of the house, and hit them up for donations. The music blares outside. I know there are parties going on, men getting drunk, boys dancing. Everyone else is happy, and I need to be too.
Maybe if I could get drunk, like men do, I'd be happy. I tried that one year, at the Seudah, surreptitiously pouring 'just a sip' of Smirnoff into my glass, every few minutes. It didn't help much.
I just want it to be over. Want life to be solid and steady again. Want to find joy in the small things, the precious moments, the intimate and close. Not in this loudness, brashness, that feels somehow fake, and shallow, and artificial.
Last year was different, if only for a moment. A woman came to visit us, on her way to a Seudah nearby. A successful, sophisticated, put together woman. A divorcee, her children assimilated and intermarried. On the spur of the moment, without much thought, we gave her a small Mishloach Manot, the left-overs from other packages, wrapped up in cellophane and a ribbon.
She was so excited. It was the first Mishloach Manot she'd received all day, she said. She placed it on the back seat of her car, proudly. She waved as she drove off.
And I was happy.
Perhaps that's what Purim is really about?
5 hours ago