On my second Purim “out,” in 2015, I taught in the morning, and then went to Brooklyn to be with my family.
(The year before, when I hadn’t yet told my parents I wasn’t frum, I lied and told them I was spending Purim with friends on the Upper West Side. In reality, I stayed home and did nothing. This year, they knew I wasn’t frum, and they cajoled me into spending Purim with them instead.)
It was expected of everyone in the extended family, that anyone within traveling distance would visit my grandmother on Purim. By the time I got to Brooklyn, though, my parents had already gone and come back home.
I was kind of relieved to have missed this year’s visit.
It had been months since I’d visited my grandmother. There was a reason for that, of course. It had always been difficult for me to visit her, even before I left Yiddishkeit (Judaism).
I’d visited her regularly before I moved out of my parents’ home, but always steeled myself beforehand, ready for her interrogation about why I wasn’t married yet, for her comments and brachos about shidduchim, for her gentle admonition and horror stories about how it’s not a good idea to be working with non-Jews…
I never knew if my parents told her that I had moved out of their home – to this day, I don’t know if she ever knew that. But she did know that I hadn’t been around for a while.
My relief about missing the family trip to Bobby was short-lived, though, when my sister bustled in with her husband and infant. They were joining us for the Purim seudah, but they planned to visit my grandmother first, and they offered me a ride.
I figured it wouldn’t be too bad with an infant along. My grandmother would focus all her attention on the baby, and I would be able to slide into the background.
No such luck, however. She grilled me on shidduchim, chided me about working with goyim, made a comment about my weight.
Oh, she did focus on the baby – but she had plenty of time to zero in on all my faults too. She was sick and home-bound, and her mind had been fading for a while, and she was often bone-tired. But when she took me to task for being single, fat, and working with goyim, her mind was laser-sharp. (Do I sound bitter here? sorrynotsorry.)
When we left, after I said “amen” to all her brachos, my sister and I went back to the car and waited for my brother-in-law to finish his conversation with one of the male cousins who was visiting at the same time.
As soon as we got to the car, I burst into tears. My sister didn’t say anything, just busied herself with strapping her baby into the car seat and let me sob in the back seat.
My cries subsided from sobs to a little hiccuping trickle of tears eventually, and I said, “I feel like Esav. I’m waiting for my grandparent to die so that I can fully and publicly and openly declare my evilness.”
My sister still said nothing. She looked at me sympathetically and offered me a box of tissues.
I dried my eyes and blew my nose and was back to smiling and cooing at my nephew by the time my brother-in-law got into the car to drive us back to my parents and the Purim seudah.
Images: an accurate representation of my family’s Purim seudah, including drunk brothers and cousins, and me hiding behind a camera in an attempt to distance myself from the often-overwhelming chaos and craziness, documenting bits and pieces as if that would somehow make it all okay.