This would be the theme of the century. I was sure of it.
I love Purim. I love the excitement when we head to shul to hear megillah at night, carrying our snappers, poppers, and silly string. I love opening the door when people bring us mishloach manos, and I love delivering to other people and stopping by my teachers’ houses. But most of all, I love planning our costumes and choosing mishloach manos to match.
Last year, we were sailors. The year before that, we were Martians. And the year before that, we were cowboys. All fun themes with easy costumes that everyone liked.
This year, my inspiration came from our family trip to Israel. We would all dress up as Israelis. Yitzy could be a Tzahal soldier, Miri could be a little kibbutz girl in braids, Mordy could be a Yerushalmi rabbi, and I could be the Israeli flag. My parents could coordinate with little accessories, and we could give out Israeli pickles, halva, and Yerushalmi kugels.
“Guys, guys,” I announced after supper about a month before Purim. “I have the best Purim idea ever! You are going to love it.”
“Ballerinas!” shouted my little sister Miri. “I want to be a ballerina!”
“No, no,” I said. “I mean, I love ballerinas, but what would Yitzy and Mordy do with that theme? We need something the whole family can do, like every – ”
“I’m not dressing up this year,” interrupted Yitzy. “Well, I am, but only at night. My rebbi is taking us collecting, and I’ll wear whatever my class wears.”
“And I already made up with Yaakov that we’ll be football players,” said Mordy. “His mother is going to order our costumes.”
“That’s ridiculous!” I said. “Yaakov is your neighbor. You’re supposed to dress up with your family, not random neighbors. And Yitzy, of course you’re dressing up. You can wear your class costume at night because who cares, but you have to wear what we wear during the day. That’s what Purim is all about!”
I paused for air for a second; I needed to calm down. “Besides,” I added after a moment, “I already figured out the whole thing. Mommy and I plan to make the kugels next Sunday, and I saw this really cute blue and white ribbon in Amazing Savings. Plus, we already found some of the costumes online!”
My mother placed a tray of chicken on the table. “Guys, why don’t you listen to what Rivka has thought of before you nix her theme? I think you may like her ideas.”
Encouraged by this, I started outlining exactly what everyone would wear, what we’d give out, and the cute shtick I’d found that would go along with my theme. “I found these adorable bags with an Israeli star on it!” I enthused. “Miri, your friends would love them!”
“No!” yelled Miri. “Mommy said I could be a ballerina for Purim!”
Yitzy and Mordy chimed in with their own objections as my face fell.
“Guys, you can’t do this,” I said desperately. “We dress up as a family every year. I spent a long time thinking about this, and it’s original, fun, and easy. Plus, it will work for everyone. Not too girly, not too boyish. We have to do it.”
“Ok, maybe it’s time to choose a different theme,” Mommy said over the din. “Let’s think together.”
“You guys can think of one,” said Yitzy, “but I am not changing my mind. I will not dress up this year. Sorry.”
Mommy looked at me. “Why don’t we continue the discussion later when everyone is a little calmer?”
We did discuss it later, but nothing changed. We discussed it the next night, and the next, until everyone made it very clear that they were sick of the topic. And anyway, it didn’t work. Not only did my siblings hate the theme I’d thought of, but they were adamant about their plans to dress up on their own.
“Don’t worry,” said Mommy. “Purim is a lot of fun even without a theme. You’ll see.”
A month later, after lots of complaining on my part, there we were, Purim morning.
Miri, resplendent in her ballerina costume, was thrilled as she strutted around the house with her shiny pink bags.
Yitzy lined up his cans of soda in his white shirt and black pants.
Mordy was so pleased with his football costume that I wasn’t sure he’d ever take it off.
As for me, I stuck to my Israeli idea. Dressed as a flag, I’d prepared packages of Bamba, halva, Israeli pickles, and peach nectar.
I’d convinced my parents to buy these t-shirts that read “This is my costume” and to my surprise, they were actually wearing them.
But the biggest surprise came later that day, many hours later, as I helped my mother unpack the remains of the mishlaoch manos amid piles of wrapping and fake grass.
“No one noticed,” I said.
“What?” My mother was puzzled.
“No one noticed,” I repeated. “No one realized that we didn’t do a theme this year. No one cared.”
“You’re right,” my mother agreed. “I didn’t think they would. But what surprised me was that you didn’t notice.”
“Huh?” I said. “Of course, I noticed.”
I pictured myself earlier in the day. The visits and guests, the boxes and packages, and the friends and family. It was all a whirlwind. A really fun whirlwind.
My mother was right. I had been having such a good time, I paid no attention to what I was wearing. To what we were wearing. Sure, it was fun to see my best friend dressed up as a penguin, too see Uncle Ben wearing a tutu. It was cool to see all ten members of the Adler family in spy gear. But those were small moments that passed me by without much contemplation on my part.
I was too busy enjoying the day for any of that to matter.
“You know,” I said as I tossed a pile of licorice in the giveaway pile, “I made myself so crazy all those years. What a waste.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” my mother responded. “We all had a great time with all the planning. It was fun!”
She was right.
So, will I be nixing the theme idea next year?
I wouldn’t say that. But I will keep in mind that the joy of Purim is the real theme of the day- no matter what we wear.