It wasn’t my idea to get the chickens.
Fine, maybe I was involved a little, but still. I was not to blame for last year’s mess.
It all started the way every Purim does in our house. With an argument – er, discussion – about what we should all wear.
“Guys, guys,” I said over my mother’s meatball dinner one night just after Tu BiShvat. “We need to get serious for a minute. What are we gonna be for Purim this year?”
“I want to be corn on the cob,” said Miri, reaching for the platter of exactly that.
“Very funny,” I retorted. “I said be serious.”
“I am totally serious,” Miri answered, spearing an ear of corn and plopping it on her plate.
Miri ignored him. “Ok, what about cowboys? That’s an easy one, and I can’t believe we never did it.”
“Horses! I want to be the horse!” yelled Meir.
“Mommy said I could be Farmer Ben,” said Yoni, who loves our old collection of Berenstain Bears books.
“Why not skip the theme this year?” asked my mother, a little too casually. She poses this question every year, in the hopes that she can send whatever she wants for mishloach manos and not have to spend money on new costumes.
“Wait,” I said, with a mouthful of meatballs. I swallowed. “Why don’t we do something really fun this year and make our whole house look like the theme? We can decorate the walls, put up lights…”
“No way,” my mother said. “Don’t even think about it.”
“Yeah!” I said. “Wait. We can make this whole house look like a farm! We can get some hay, and chickens. We can make one wall look like a silo. And you,” she said, looking at Meir, “can be the horse.”
“And I can be Farmer Ben!” shouted Yoni.
“Yes!” I exclaimed.
“No,” said my mother. “You are lucky – “
Before she could finish her thought, Yoni knocked an entire pitcher of orange juice all over Meir and the subject was closed for the evening.
A few days later, an Amazon box with a farmer costume for Yoni arrived at our door.
“I figured if I just started ordering, there would be less arguing,” my mother explained over Yoni’s ear-splitting whoops. “See, now Yoni’s happy and the rest of you will just have to stick with it.”
“But I changed my mind!” I moaned. “A farm theme is so dumb.”
“It’s a great theme!” said Mommy. “Look, I also ordered these little baskets we can fill with vegetables. I can do a pepper, a cucumber, some dressing…It’ll be cute. And it’s so easy!”
For someone who hated themes, my mother was very excited.
“Well,” I said to Miri that night as we put laundry away in our shared room. “We have two choices for Purim. To do our own thing and just be whatever we want – which Mommy always said she wanted – or to go along with this ridiculous theme.”
“It was your idea,” she pointed out.
“Oh, come on,” I said. “It was just an idea. We always go through a million of them before we decide on one that makes sense.”
But I’m a better sport than I let on (if I do say so myself), and soon I was searching for the perfect cow accessories.
There was a lot to take care of. My older brother Dovid was coming home from yeshivah for Purim, and we were planning to host a lot of his friends for the seudah. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen each evening with my mother and sister, baking challah rolls and putting together mini trifles when I’d finished my homework.
“You know,” Miri said one night as she carefully folded egg whites into some sort of chocolate mixture. “It wasn’t a bad idea to decorate the house a little to go with our theme.”
“It’s cute,” replied my mother, “but the whole place becomes such a mess and there is so much to buy as it is that I think we should skip it. If you want, you can put together some things for the table to coordinate.”
“Okay,” I said resignedly. I sighed and covered a bowl of cut vegetables with plastic wrap, moving on to the cookie dough.
It was Dovid who had the great idea. He called one night, and I updated him about our theme. I wasn’t sure if he was really listening – after all, he doesn’t usually join in our family theme ideas – but he surprised me by saying, “That’s not a bad idea. Maybe I can help.”
The next night he surprised me even more – to say the least – when he called and said, “I found you chickens.”
“You..what?” I sputtered.
“Chickens,” he repeated. “I have a friend who ordered chickens for his brother’s high school shtick, and he told me where to get them. I just ordered ten. They cost almost nothing.” He laughed. “My friends will love this. Chickens in our dining room for the Schwarts farmers!”
“Dovid,” I said sharply. “You cannot order chickens. Mommy will have a heart attack. She didn’t even let me decorate one wall of the house; you think she will allow chickens?”
“Leave it to me,” Dovid said. “I have to run. See you on Purim.”
And that is how, smack in middle of our Purim seudah (the guy ran late, Dovid said), just as my mother was getting the mini trifles out of the basement refrigerator as Dovid’s friend Yishai launched into a dvar Torah about Chanukah (boys will do things like that on Purim), our doorbell rang, and there stood a guy with a box of chickens.
“Chickens!” shouted Meir. He ran to the door with Yoni. I stayed frozen in my seat.
Ten chickens appeared in our living room, squawking and running everywhere.
My mother came running up the steps, holding the trifles. Her jaw dropped. Miri ran over and grabbed the tray from her arms before she could drop it.
“Batsheva,” Mommy said. He voice was dangerously low.
“Batsheva?” my father echoed, looking at me questioningly.
“It wasn’t me!” I sputtered. “This is not what I meant by decorating the house!”
Let’s just say that it was a very eventful Purim. The chickens were banished to the backyard once we managed to gather them, and one sadly disappeared, never to be seen again.
The very next day, my father bravely made the trip back to the chicken farm with Dovid to return the chickens to their real home.
Our home was pretty much back to normal by then, barring a few stray feathers and a few stains we shall not discuss.
Purim is around the corner once again, as Miri pointed out tonight over dinner.
“What should we dress up as this year?” she asked as she brought a stack of dinner napkins to the table.
My mother turned pale and left the table for a moment, pretending to stir the soup.
I just continued eating my dinner.