By Hannah Reich Berman
Every year, just before Purim, some of my grandchildren ask me, “Are you going to be in costume again this year, Savta?” And every year, not wanting to disappoint them, I say “Sure, of course!” It should be noted here that I give that response even if I have no specific plans to get into costume and haven’t yet thought of one. After all, what grandmother wants to disappoint her grandchildren?
This year was no exception. I said yes without having a clue as to how I would dress. Then I spent the next few days wondering what to do. I have a reputation to live up to as a fun-loving Savta, and I was determined to keep up that image. But for a while I kept coming up empty in the ideas department. And then my brain kicked in and I had a plan. It was just in the nick of time!
Actually, it was a full week before Purim, but, being a long-range planner, I think of one week before anything as just in the nick of time. I suddenly remembered that my friend Esther and her four sisters had recently held a spectacular birthday party for their mom, Toby. It had been an I Love Lucy party, except that they referred to it as an “I Love Toby” party. All five of Toby’s daughters, many of her granddaughters, and even some of her nieces dressed as varying appearances of Lucille Ball.
After the party, I was privileged to view the video that was taken of the event and I was blown away by how fantastic the costumes were. Esther came the closest to looking like the Lucy of television fame, and her sister Joan was a dead ringer for the real-life Lucille Ball. Amazingly, each female there resembled Lucy in her own way. And that is how, one week before Purim, I came to ask Esther if she would mind lending her costume to me for Purim. She graciously agreed.
The costume consisted of a curly red wig and a huge black-and-white polka-dotted scarf that could be tied into a bow and placed around the hair (wig) as Lucy so often wore it. There was also a black-and-white polka-dotted apron. Polka dots were one of Lucy’s trademarks. Esther even supplied me with the bright candy-apple-red lipstick that Lucy was so famous for.
The finishing touches were my own. In my bag of costumes from previous Purims, I dug out humongous false eyelashes to make me appear more like Lucy. Then, just as I was about to leave for the seudah, I came up with another gimmick. Racing back into the bathroom where I keep my makeup, I whited out my naturally dark-brown eyebrows and used a red lip liner to draw those high, thin, arched eyebrows that Lucy had. Even I had to admit, I looked like Lucy!
Saturday evening, when Purim arrived, I went to hear the Megillah reading but I didn’t dress in costume that night. Nor did I get into costume the next morning. I didn’t want anyone to see me and spread the word. I wanted to walk into our family seudah in the afternoon and surprise everyone at once. And that is just what I did. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out exactly as I had hoped—and the one who got the biggest surprise was me!
My family couldn’t stop laughing when they saw me. And they couldn’t take their eyes off me. But there was one problem. Only my daughters and their husbands knew who I was dressed as. Most of the grandchildren didn’t have a clue. One by one, they looked at me, then looked at one another, and then looked back at me. And within seconds the youngest one said, “Who are you supposed to be?”
The younger ones had no idea who Lucille Ball was and had never heard of the I Love Lucy show. The older ones had seen some footage somewhere of the famous redhead and also knew that there was once a television program known as I Love Lucy. But there wasn’t a single one of them who was truly familiar with the legend, and none could really relate to the person, the program, or the era. Nevertheless, I was delighted with the raves from my adult children. I wowed them. And that was rewarding.
Purim is now but a happy memory. Make that mostly happy! There were some misfires. The biggest ones were the Megillah readings. And I have a few questions—as well as a suggestion. Why is it that the people who read the Megillah are always such speed demons? What’s the rush? And how is it that these guys can move their lips faster than I can move my eyes? Chances are that the readings were flawless and totally accurate. But I’ll never know, because the speed obliterated the clarity. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t keep up.
But the real trouble began when I sneezed. I took my eyes off the page just long enough to cover my sneeze, and that was it for me! It was a full ten minutes before I was able to find the place again. I asked the gal sitting next to me for help, but she had a different booklet than I did, so that didn’t work out. When I finally found the place again, I didn’t dare move a muscle from that moment on. I was afraid to so much as blink.
Purim is a busy day. Undoubtedly, some people are in a rush to get home and get back to giving out mishloach manot packages or to their seudah preparations. But exactly how much more time would the reading have taken if the reader had gone at a normal pace? And trust me here—what I heard was not a normal pace. I didn’t enjoy a minute of it. The idea is to hear the retelling of the story of Esther and, that being the case, for me, it was an abject failure. I’ve been able to read Hebrew since the age of seven, but I was unable to distinguish one word from another—and I’m willing to bet that I wasn’t the only one who had that problem.
As regards the suggestion that I mentioned earlier, maybe next year a speed contest should be held and the results of who came in first, second, third, etc. could then be posted in the lobby of the shul. That being done, those of us who actually want to hear the telling of the story of Esther can attend the reading of the fellow who came in dead last! Slow is not what I’m looking for, but a normal pace will do.
And speaking of next year, it now occurs to me that if I want to impress my younger grandchildren I may have to dress up as SpongeBob Square-Pants. That’s the way it is! v
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.