Michael found his Purim home this year. On Shabbat morning a friend told us about the Yemenite custom which is to read the megillah (Book of Esther) with not one sound from the audience. Not a peep. It is customary to make a noise whenever Haman's (bad guy) name is read to drown out his name. Add to that a public reading with kids running around and you can imagine that sometimes it can be hard to hear. We have a Yemenite minyan in our town that actually just uses one of the rooms in our synagogue. Can you hear the heavenly choir now? What a relief. Michael went to that minyan and it was like landing in his own Nirvana. It also took all the stress off our family having fun b/c I was able to go to a different reading and we traded watching the kids so I was also free to listen and concentrate.
In the final two minutes of Shabbat the kids started a countdown and then when the clock struck they literally started jumping up and down and shouting "it's Purim, it's Purim." I don't entirely know what they were told would happen but they raced upstairs and changed into their costumes and ran to the synagogue for the Megilla reading.
I sat with a friend whose husband had just finished writing his own Megillat Esther. What a meaningful experience it was to sit in Israel and listen to this ancient story of Jewish perseverance and follow along on a handwritten scroll that was written by a friend and citizen of modern Israel. Wow.
The next day Michael went to a morning reading and then we traded places and I went to a women's only Megilla reading. It was very special. An all female audience and all female readers. Some did a slightly dramatic reading but mostly they just chanted the traditional trop (musical motif). I went back home and we put together our mishloach manot. Meanwhile people kept coming to the door with baskets for us. My parents sent a huge basket that was delivered by a company and the kids went crazy. By early afternoon our dining room table was filled with enough junk to last us until next Purim. People were quite creative with all kinds of homemade treats and even liquors and fine chocolates. Needless to say we all indulged. M put a tuxedo on for his costume and we went out to hand deliver a few baskets. I have never been in an environment where everyone is participating in Purim. People were delivering baskets, playing Purim music, hanging out in costume. Someone even gave M some wine under the pretense of it being grape juice. All day, A advised us to save some energy for the next day "shu-shu" Purim. There is a holiday called "Shushan" Purim (Shushan being the capital of Persia at the time of the Purim story) but I guess she didn't quite hear it right.
Later in the afternoon we joined friends at their house for a Purim Seudah (the festive meal). Lord Grantham, a/k/a Michael had changed back into jeans but the kids stayed in costume so it was the 4 of us and a strung-out Pirate. Our friends are quite creative and they had set up a beautiful meal plus the dad played "Purim Jeopardy" with the kids. We had a really nice time. And our pirate cheered up a bit after getting some real food (and not just junk) into her system. That night we consolidated everything we hadn't eaten or opened and the candy alone was close to 10 pounds!
Today for shu-shu Purim (really only celebrated in walled cities--such as Jerusalem) we laid low. L organized a family art contest in the morning and I'm so proud to announce that I took second place. It was actually the first art contest I have ever won in my life --excluding the time in 5th grade when I painted a picture of the plaza lights and then accidentally dropped it on someone else's painting. It was still wet so the streaky effect was mistaken for "art" and by the time my painting was being recognized it was way too late for me to correct the matter. (Sorry Mrs. Phillips if you're reading now). We took the kids to a local Purim fair put on by the youth group. They did all the kid things that are fun when you're that age (including eating cotton candy the size of your head) and that night M took N for one of his baseball games, which they won 11-2. Yes, they scored 11 runs, and their team got only one hit in the game. Figure that out, baseball experts. Also, N called a time-out during the game and ran to the pitcher to share some words. One of the fathers commented that he never before saw a left fielder come to consult with the pitcher during game time. Apparently, impressed by the previous strikeout, and inspired by a bit of boredom out in left field, N was curious about whether the pitcher could throw a "slider" (a pitch he tells me he learned about from Uncle Howie.)
I stayed back with L & A and we had our own little dance party. It was a great way to wrap up (what in our old lives would have been known as a long weekend) the holiday. Favorite quote of the weekend came from N who has a special talent for turning things on their head. "I think we should thank Haman b/c if it hadn't been for him we wouldn't have Purim." I'm going to bottle up all that good feeling and save it for a rainy day.