During the noisy Megilah reading, all of my Hebrew school classmates sat on the floor of the sanctuary, dressed up as Shushan’s most famous residents, holding groggers and ready to drown out Haman’s name. We listened to the story intently for just the right time to make noise. All I could think about was the carnival.
The Purim Carnival at Temple Beth Sholom was, of course, the place to be seen in your Purim costume finest. We had games, songs, and food. It was also the only time my mother allowed me to have cotton candy, and it was delicious.
In writing this piece, I asked my younger brother for his memories of the Purim carnival. All he could remember was his alligator costume from around age six. Gray convoluted foam, some green spray paint, and green sweatpants made him quite the feared crocodilian. My favorite costume was from about second or third grade. My mom took a skirt with rows and rows of sequins and metallic thread that she hadn’t worn in years, cut it on a seam, hemmed it and attached some hooks. It became my royal cape. I made myself a crown out of cardboard, paint, and aluminum foil. My mom let me wear makeup, including a deep red lipstick. I looked terrific. I wasn’t vain! I was Queen Vashti.
The carnival was also the place to play a few games and win a goldfish that would surely not make it to Passover. Sadly, carnival fish are not given the proper respect they deserve as a living creature, but I think we did our best. It was a ring toss game that brought Goldie into our lives. I won the game, and my prize was a tiny goldfish. Our family had just set up a tropical fish tank a few months before, so I was excited to bring him to meet our other fish. Another classmate of mine also won a goldfish that day that she named Creamsicle. Creamsicle wound up spending his days in a simple fish bowl. Apparently, we both got everlasting carnival fish, as three years later, my friend and I still had our Purim carnival fish. They both grew big and fat, way larger than a 35-cent goldfish probably should grow. My grandmother loved to tease us about Goldie by asking when she could make gefilte fish out of him. We did not appreciate the questioning. When Goldie passed on, we had a fish funeral and buried him in the yard. It was a good life for our carnival fish, a festive life. Why we didn’t opt for a burial at sea was beyond my youthful reckoning.