Spring is in the air, another holiday is upon us, and it's that time of year when thoughts turn to writing a new classic Orthomom rant (TM) on the (mostly) wonderful community the Orthofamily calls home.
Purim. A holiday of fun and festivities. A joyous holiday where kids and adults alike can concentrate on the seemingly fun and relaxing task of visiting friends and family to deliver packages of food and wine. Well. As with everything else in the Five Towns, things aren't so simple out here. With the joy and celebration Purim entails comes the endless battle of one-upmanship that some residents of the Five Towns seem to live for engaging in. Here are a few examples:Costumes.
Which child doesn't look forward to dressing up for Purim? I remember fondly the days of my youth, when I would agonize for days over what to dress up as for the holiday. Except. Long gone are the days of homemade, construction-paper and glitter crowns for Ahashverosh and Esther, and beards drawn on faces (with Mom's eyeliner) for Haman. Oh no. Some of the costumes that I see on the backs of neighborhood children these days are nothing short of breathtaking. I mean, we are talking worthy of Best Costume nominations at the Oscars. I have seen girls walking around in little Geisha costumes that are authentic enough to fool the most discerning Western businessman (kidding). Firemen that have not only a full uniform and hard hat, but an axe, oxygen tank, rescue ladder, hose - I wouldn't be surprised to see some local kids being chauffeured around to deliver Shalach Manot in a rented fire truck. Which brings me to the next topic.Shalach Manot.
These packages of food are distributed to friends and family members. Used to be, a small bottle of grape juice with baggie of homemade hamantaschen loaded into a little basket and you were good to go. Not anymore. Now, Shalach Manot are as much a staus symbol as the luxury cars and designer shoes that mark status out here. A few years back, "theme" Shalach Manot were popular. I remember getting countless packages that included a decorative teapot, tea bags, honey and lemons. Another recurring theme was a fishbowl containing goldfish crackers and a bottle of water. These days, when minimalism has become de rigueur, the hottest trend seems to be color coordination. Last year I received a blue box with everything inside in the same hue. Blue candy, a cobalt blue glass bottle of vodka, cookies with blue icing, and it was all wrapped up with a blue ribbon and a custom printed blue decal with the distributing family's name and purim wishes imprinted on it. In addition to the obvious cash expenditures that go into making these creations, the enormous amount of time that go into them is another thing entirely. I have acquaintances that have been packaging these for weeks, using every spare second of their time. And of course, who would trust their children to assist with the packing as I remember fondly doing when I was a child? Young children might commit the cardinal sin of tying a ribbon askew, or neglecting to include one of the myriad coordinated items that make up the package. That would border on the disastrous. I went to a friend to drop something off last week, and though she was not home, her housekeeper was sitting at the dining room table, packing and wrapping her employer's Shalach Manot packages. Is it just me, or is there something very, very wrong about paying a non-Jew to package your mitzvah up? Something else that really bugs me? As many shuls do, the sisterhood of my shul gives shul members the opportunity to participate in giving and receiving a package that the sisterhood creates and delivers, for the cost of around $70. This ostensibly saves time, as well as doing the service of helping raise money for the shul. Which is a wonderful concept - if it actually worked. Though an understanding exists that people should not give private Shalach Manot to anyone included on the list, more and more people have been ignoring that unwritten rule in recent years, and some have lately expressed to me that they wonder if the whole idea had run its course if people are just going to give each other twice. Another big trend in Shalach Manot is that now, the kids create themed packages of their own to give out to their own friends. We're talking fancy. My kids received packages from their friends last year that were far nicer than anything I ever gave out. And in exchange for delivering these fabulously appointed goodie baskets, they receive "Purim Gelt" at the doors of the recipients. Which, of course, brings me to the next subject.Purim Gelt.
Does anyone else remember getting a quarter at the most? Well, apparently, the neighborhoods kids banded together to demand a Cost of Living increase. Because my kids made a serious
amount of money last year. They got at least a dollar (each!) at every house - and they received five-dollar bills
from more than a few package recipients when they made the drop-off. Couple that number with the ever-growing list of recipients (this year I made 75 packages!) and... you do the math. That's a pretty good take for something that's a mitzvah as well. The amount of one-dollar bills that I need to pick up from the bank grows every year. I learned my lesson a few years back when I oh-so-pathetically had to borrow from one of my kid's stash when I ran out.
Welcome to the Five Towns.