When they say it almost never, ever rains in Los Angeles, what they don’t tell you is that when it does, it rains all at once like G-d is trying to pull that Noah’s Ark business all over again. And that’s the kind of rain that hit here this Purim.
Rain is my kryptonite (okay, how is that NOT in the Blogger dictionary?). I can be inside, indoors, not even know it’s raining, not even see it or hear it but it creeps into my bones. It usually begins with me feeling like a computer powering down all of a sudden, randomly, for an annoying, ill-timed Windows Upgrade that I told the computer I didn’t want to do until 4 hours or was it 10 minutes from now? Along with this weird sudden incredible fatigue and brain fog, what people with fibromyalgia call fibro fog, comes the excruciating joint pain eventually.
Pretty much every Purim since I converted has been cursed. Okay, maybe it was cursed before I converted, too. I remember bringing my sisters to shul to celebrate my first Purim with me (since they love/loved Halloween) and some creepy guys three times their age tried to pick them up. Other than that, my first Purim rocked. I was sick already but not as sick as I would become months and years later. Every Purim after that, I was sick and I had to balance trying to enjoy and follow along with the megillah reading with the pain of the noise of all the people claustrophobically squished in all around me pushing into my most painful parts, which only got more painful from the sensory overload.
This year, I was in such terrible pain, I decided to officially dub it “the Purim curse” because I didn’t even make it out of the house from Thursday to Monday. Purim started Saturday night and into Sunday. (No, I don’t count getting my Netflix or visiting our lovely downstairs neighbors–cousins–“making it out of the house.” Making it out of the house has to at least count crossing a street or something, I think. My doctor and physical therapist would disagree since according to them stairs of any kind are on my DON’T list, whether I’m going up them or most especially, down them.)
Anyway, by the time I realized the Purim curse had struck again, I was crying in a little ball of pain on the floor. I never threw tantrums growing up. I get to throw them now, especially with my newest symptom: migraines. I wasn’t depressed and in pain at first. Just angry and in pain. Angry that the first year I decided to dress up for Purim (Lois Lane, thereby forcing the rabbi husband to be Clark Kent/Superman), I was too sick to get my costume together, too sick to help put together the mishloach manot (can I please just call them Purim baskets? I mean, this is like a tongue twister for me even now, even though I know I can say it, I STILL feel like I’m doing it wrong!). I’d set the table in the middle of the night when I’d had a moment of coherent thought but even then forgotten napkins.
We weren’t supposed to be Lois and Clark. Originally, I’d promised a little girl we’d do a Harry Potter theme but I checked my bank account and decided homemade press passes, clothes we already owned or borrowed and one Superman t-shirt later that Harry Potter anything was too expensive. Plus, I’ve had two Harry Potter themed birthday parties AFTER age 20 and dressed up as Harry Potter for Halloween AFTER age 20. It is possible I should never do anything Harry Potter related after watching the last film for my 31st birthday in July.
By the time, I felt kinda normal, I realized my husband had singlehandedly cooked the meal for our first ever Purim seudah. Persian rice. His own original spiced up salmon. Dominican beans, of course. Salad, I can no longer eat/digest unless it’s at the end of the meal like now I’m part French, too. We’d never hosted a seudah. Every year, we’d been lucky enough to attend one hosted by one or both ladies in our old ‘hood that claim the same name with different spellings but always managed to be the hostesses with the mostesses whatever the occassion. (I know when I write that kinda stuff, my former students reading my blog just loooooove it and want to pull out an angry red pen.) Oh, plus one Purim we attended an unforgettable seudah that made me question whether my friend should be a rabbi or a stand-up comedian. Can you do both?
Elsewhere, somehow, Super Rabbi Husband had also put together our 10 Purim baskets, using the Chinese food-style cartons from Target that did not have Easter decorations all over them. He’d even managed to incorporate OUR Dominican-ness into them by throwing in dried papaya and mango slices, which for some reason our kosher market sells…along with mango, papaya and even guava juice from…South Africa. Not South America, SOUTH AFRICA. I love you, Los Angeles.
Anyway, where were we? Yes, yes, my husband IS Superman. All I did to the baskets was label them so no one with food allergies would die and I put our address on them so people would know where we actually lived. We (by which we mean HE) tried to hand out baskets to people who had hosted us more times than we had ever hosted them, in some cases especially people we’d never hosted at all in many cases because their families are too large for our apartment or our food budget. I made a list of the 10 most important folks and then a list of “backups,” in case, we couldn’t find the top 10. Yeah, I was a personal assistant in a past life, okay?
When our two and only two guests arrived, I was still in my PJs and my pain medication hadn’t kicked in so I was only sorta kinda standing, very wobbly and only cogent enough to be slightly embarrassed. By the time I had changed into sadly not my Lois Lane outfit, we’d acquired a third unexpected guest who I REALLY THINK IS Superman because he has that kinda frequent flyer miles from always being somewhere in the world trying to save it just before jetting to another part of the world that needs help. In fact, his stop at our seudah was an eat-and-run to go from one “saving the world” event to another “saving the world” event. I half expected him to reveal a Superman logo underneath his shirt and tie but well, I’ve been waiting for him to do that for years and it hasn’t happened…YET.
And then there was a fourth guest! We’d gone from two guests to somehow three rabbis and a doorbell that never stopped ringing because someone was dropping off a Purim basket throughout the entire meal, even people I didn’t think knew where we lived, like our rabbi’s wife or all those people who’ve hosted us and we didn’t get to make Purim baskets for this year and okay, let’s repeat: the rabbi’s wife. Did I mention I love LA? And they were doing all these deliveries while nearly drowning in that epic Los Angeles rain, some of them dashing from their cars without umbrellas and running up our uncovered slick steps.
I never made it to shul this Purim. I didn’t get to go to the late night megillah reading that I hoped would be long past the bedtimes of the grogger-heavy crowd. Noise and chronic pain don’t mix. I didn’t get to go to the mid-morning megillah reading either that was going to be a women-only thing. I’d had it on my calendar ever since the shul had announced it. But I missed it. Purim curse, yes?
Instead, I had two rabbis I have known for most of my entire Jewish life read the megillah to me. No groggers, some giggling, moaning, groaning, barely there booing and funny noises whenever Haman’s name was mentioned. And realizing that maybe my Purim, this Purim, hadn’t been cursed after all. I certainly had a pile of more Purim baskets than I’d ever expected to receive my whole life. One even came with a poem. I’d also had not one but TWO rabbis doing my own personal megillah reading. One did most of the reading, the other, of course, corrected pronunciation errors. Rabbis take this stuff seriously.
No, it isn’t just rabbis. It’s, well, Jews. These Jews in LA who have made me a part of their community since I moved here in June. Okay, it helps that we interned here for two summers but sometimes, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be even when I ache for my hometown of New York City…the only place I’ve ever lived ad the only place I’d ever thought I’d live. These Jews in LA take their holidays seriously. Rain or shine. Orthodox or not. This year, I got my taste of the pomp and circumstance (and noise!) by watching all the Purim videos that were circulating long before Purim had started.
But the best part of this Purim was that I never had to leave the home to break the Purim curse because this year, the perfect Purim came and found me in my pajamas, no costumes or groggers necessary.