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Committed to Memory

When I remember the special moments of my youth, I panic. What memories will my children have?

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hen I was eight years old, I was black and white. From hat and face, down to stockings and shoes, I was split vertically down the center, black on one side, white on the other. The shalach manos I proudly distributed that year contained black-and-white cookies (homemade black-and-white cookies), packed in black-and-white boxes with some additional black-and-white items.

Another year I was dressed as a baby, and the shalach manos was a “mini chair” stacked with (homemade) “miniatures.” Give a chair, cuz it’s a miniature, and a cheerful Yom Tov we will share.

That’s the landscape of my Purim memory lane. Months of brainstorming themes with my mother, scouring the aisles of The Rag Shop for shalach manos inspiration, baking and decorating goodies, crafting costumes.

And building the suspense! We wouldn’t breathe a word about our plans to anyone, and I was convinced the entire world was waiting with bated breath for the Weisses’ grand reveal Purim morning.

Well. There’s no secret — and no theme — to my kids’ costumes this Purim. Our shalach manos won’t relate to their costumes and won’t contain anything homemade. Even if I would bake, I wouldn’t take out the mixer before every last kid was fast asleep. So much for sweet batter-licking memories.

Poor kids, I know. I feel bad for them. And guilty too. I’m denying my offspring the special moments that wove the fabric of my childhood memories.

This isn’t only a Purim-related issue. Nostalgia messes with me all the time; a mixture of indulging in wistful recollections and guilt-guilt-guilt, culpability for not duplicating the experiences that were so dear to me when I was a child.

My daughter in particular has a knack for making my rosy memories resurface. I observe her growing up: reaching milestones, honing skills, discovering interests. And I relive my own childhood trajectory. The “right it’s ugly?” crafts pride, the “pleeeease can I read one more story?” nightly ritual, the “what did she say what did she wear tell me everything” after PTA. We’re similar in some ways, different in others, but as she goes through each stage, I’m that age all over again, caught in déjà vu.

But the highlights of my memories — she’s missing out on those. Life is so forward-pushing, I don’t have time to do paint-by-numbers with her the way my mother did with me, I don’t have patience to bake elaborate cream cakes for Shabbos. I’m so tired. And busy. Always.

We get away with store-bought costumes. Shalach manos is a classy but no-hassle situation. It’s important to me that my kids eat a decent breakfast Purim morning and go to sleep at a normal hour.

But when I remember the special moments of my youth, I panic. What memories will my children have?

Frantically, I attempt to recreate my vivid memories. Starting with LEGO.

When I was my daughter’s age, LEGO was an integral part of my existence. I’d sit bent over those tiny pieces for hours, constructing the most complex houses and vehicles. I can still feel the rapture, being transported to another planet as I searched for 2x4s.

I want to give her that. I want to pass on that thrill, the total absorption that LEGO affords. And confession: I want to reexperience the thrill myself. It was so ahh.

So I buy her a box. We open it. I’m excited, she’s excited. This is going to be epic.

Except it isn’t. I sit down and start building, but after two minutes, it becomes obvious: I have no patience.

My daughter’s interest lives a bit longer, and I pretend to love every moment. But after a while, she’s back to her crafts. Her books. Her I’m-so-bored-can-we-bake? We both move on.

Occasionally, when she’s bored, I suggest LEGO. She shrugs, disinterested. I go so far as to buy a box of accessories, with tons of Mentchies. Hello… Mentchies!

Nada. We’re not a LEGO family. It’s official.

It pains me. I mean, LEGO. How will my kids have memories without this favorite childhood toy?

But to my wonder, their memories are happening. Totally different memories. A secret code language, teasing and tinkering, edifices constructed of — shudder — Clics.

They don’t know about Purim themes — and they don’t seem to care. As Purim approaches, I observe their excitement. Serious, electrifying excitement, with a countdown, because despite my spoilsport attitude, they love Purim, and recount their own delightful memories from previous years.

It’s gratifying to see that they aren’t scarred for life because their mother doesn’t do themes. They love Purim just as much as I did. Their own memories — theme-less and LEGO-less — are taking shape.

And when they grow up, these are the memories they will try to recreate.

 

(Originally Featured in Family First, Issue 683)

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Tagged: Musings