Purim Under a Cloud
I think that I could put this day in the dictionary under the definition of "surreal."
We and everyone around us in Israel were dutifully following orders today, "going about our lives as usual," -- in this case, it meant celebrating a holiday. With the kids dressed up in their costumes, we went out to party, to the annual Purim carnival that takes place on the campus where my husband works. There was music, arts and crafts, a jumping castle, a show, lots of hot dogs and cotton candy and corn on the cob. The kids were having a grand old time -- mine were totally blissed out.
But only one thing was on the minds and in the conversations of the adults present -- the war. We were all actors in a play, behaving like carefree and happy party-goers for our kids' benefit, while our minds were racing with other matters.
In the midst of it all, I was guiding my Buzz Lightyear-attired son next to a speaker blasting the song, "Hey Purim, hey Purim, festive and happy," and an acquaintance yelled in my ear, "Did you hear? They've told us to seal up the rooms!"
This is the second time something like this has happened to me. My son's birthday is September 11. A year and a half ago, I was about to greet the children arriving for his 5th birthday party at 4 pm, when my mother in law called me and told me to turn on the TV. As the guests arrived, one by one, the excited children went to participate in the party games, and the mothers heard the news and sat in stunned silence, or frantically called friends and relatives in the US, and took turns surreptitiously sneaking upstairs to the bedroom to watch CNN and reporting back to the group. The experience of the adults and the children was so disparate.
Back then, I was so glad to be in a phase of life where I was the mother of small children, so I wasn't able to sit and focus on the horrible realities of this world. This Purim, I am also glad to be in this position, even if it means having to "fake it" once in a while as I did at the Purim party. All in all, being forced to "spin" the experience into a fun adventure for them, a la Roberto Benigni is "Life is Beautiful," is making it all a whole lot more tolerable for me.
My spin appears to be working. My kids think that our tiny safe room, our sealed bomb shelter is really cool. They are happy to give anyone who wants a guided tour: the mattress they will sit on, the special emergency light, the radio, the chemical toilet, and most importantly, the box of toys to entertain them, and bag of chocolate and snacks.
They can hardly wait to go spend time there. I truly hope that they are disappointed.