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Dirty Little Secret

But then, to my shock, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way

I had a dirty, little secret. I was mortified and embarrassed and didn’t want anyone to know.

But you have to be brave and admit your failings if you’re going to work on them.

I didn’t love Purim.

There. I said it. Purim — the whole Adar — is marbim b’simchah, so how could I admit to being anything but joyous and exalted? But you see, I’m. Not. Organized. And other women are. So I’d assumed mine was the only house where junk food and missing costume parts and cellophane ruled.

All the organized mothers had neat, organized houses on Purim, just as on every other day of the year. And they loved waking up at the crack of dawn to get their adorable, neat, organized children into their adorable, neat, organized costumes (for the fourth time — after the family pictures and the school party and the night Megillah reading). And driving all over the city on their neat, organized route to deliver their perfectly executed, tasteful-yet-not-overdone mishloach manos. (While, of course — Of Course! — davening neitz and finishing Sefer Tehillim.)

Eventually I had to concede that it was just so much work trying to rein in all that chaos. For me. For everyone. Purim was one long day of trying to control the uncontrollable.

But then, to my shock, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. A lot of other mothers — even the organized ones — quietly admitted that they were also ambivalent about this day.  That was some comfort, I admit. (Okay, a lot of comfort. I’m petty like that.)

But it still didn’t clear up the elephant in the room (and since I’m not the one getting drunk, I didn’t imagine the elephant); I was failing miserably at all that marbim b’simchah I was supposed to be feeling.

Gosh — the men have it so easy. They drain their wine glass, yet again, unconcerned about Sruli licking his 57th lollipop or that there’s too much soy sauce in the green beans. Just drink yourself to ad d’lo yada and nothing is a problem. I’d even heard a shiur about it somewhere along the way.

How can getting drunk be a mitzvah? the rebbetzin asked. The rest of the year, getting drunk is so un-Jewish. And then Purim comes along, and the unthinkable suddenly becomes a mitzvah?

It’s about the illusion of control, she answered. We are obligated to do hishtadlus, but the results are in Hashem’s Hands. All year, we work to internalize that. On Purim, men take that message to the ultimate by relinquishing control of their very seichel. When the men drink on Purim, they’re saying, “I control nothing. Not even my own seichel. Absolutely everything is in Hashem’s Hands.”

Me? I’m not a control freak. My friends call me “a chill mom.” I can let go. I always let go!

If you’re such a chill mom, a little voice asked, why is Purim so hard for you?

“Because,” I said, arms crossed as I look that little voice in the eye. (If you want to know how it’s possible to look a voice in the eye, you are clearly lacking the Purim spirit.) “Because…” I trailed off as I broke eye contact with the little voice.

“There’s just so much to worry about… getting to Megillah on time, making sure the kids have their costumes, delivering all the mishloach manos, serving the seudah and making sure the food’s okay… even chill moms have to, ya know — be moms. All while taking advantage of the power of the day.” I am not at all defensive. “But fine, I get it now. This is the chillest of days. I can do the whole ad d’lo yada business without taking a sip.”

Purim morning, before I’ve even opened my second eye — the little voice is hovering over my bed, hands on hips, a challenge in its face.

I get up to face Purim day, letting go of all the balls I normally juggle. It’s not that I’m not doing all the things I normally do — but instead of trying so hard, chasing the balls that slip out of my hands, I drop my shoulders and remember Hashem’s got my back (and my front, and everything in between). Some balls roll away to a quiet corner; others stay in the air held up by an unseen Force. And me? I find myself actually enjoying Purim.

At the end of the day, as I slink past the detritus I’ve yet to get to on my way to bed, I wink at the little voice. “L’chayim!”


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 886)

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