Passing the Bottle—Oops, the Buck: It was a Purim we will never forget

By Shifra Fried

My son got married two weeks before Purim. As I walked sedately down the aisle, my arm in the crook of my son’s, a thought occurred to me, and I willed myself not to dance a little jig. He’s all yours now, I thought, even on Purim. But I digress. Let me begin at the beginning.

That Purim dawned cold and blustery, with four inches of snow covering the streets. I was in the beginning of my ninth month, carrying baby number nine. I groaned as I attempted to roll over in bed. It was a perfect day to stay indoors with a cup of hot cocoa. My children, of course, had no such plans.

“Ma, I need my belt, my hat and my shoes. And where’s my gragger?”

“Oy, I’m missing my rubber nose! I looked everywhere!”

“I guess you’ll just have to manage without it,” I said, smiling in spite of myself. The Purim excitement was contagious. I looked up and noticed my 17-year-old son cupping his hands megaphone-style as he tried unsuccessfully to get my attention.

“Ma,” he intoned, “do you have any mishloach manos for me for my rebbeim?”

“It’s only seven in the morning,” I replied. “When are you planning on giving it to them?”

“Not until later,” he said with a grin, “but I don’t know if I’ll have time to come home before then.”

I nodded, giving him a questioning look as I waddled about, assembling the requisite bottle of wine and box of chocolates.

“Don’t worry,” he said, attempting to reassure his worried mother. “I won’t drink too much, and only with food.”

“No more than two cups,” I told him with as much gravity as I could muster. This was my one and only chance to put my foot down.

“But Mommy, what about ad d’lo yada?”

“You really like to do things the best way possible, to be mehader in the mitzvah. But my zeidy always said that getting drunk on Purim is the one halachah—”

“That you shouldn’t be too machmir on!” he said, finishing my sentence. “How about just three cups?” He looked down at me as I sat on the floor trying to get my daughter’s boots on.

I nodded hesitantly, wondering if I would live to regret it. It was a moment of weakness. Yes, I admit it. Temporary insanity. What was I thinking? Then again, it’s only Purim once a year, I told myself Why was I always such a worrywart?
By the time I looked up, my son was gone, apparently afraid that I would change my mind. I watched from the window as he made his way carefully down the stairs. It didn’t pay to worry, I told myself. I took a deep breath and said a kapitel Tehillim.

I forgot our conversation as the hectic day commenced. After I spent a long afternoon battling the urge to binge on nosh as we made our way through long lines of honking cars on the snowy streets, we went to my parents’ house for a small, low-key seudah. At the end of the meal, when I was just about ready to gather my overtired family and call it a day, I got a phone call.

“This is Hatzalah,” a male voice informed me.

My heart plummeted to my shoes, and a wave of adrenaline suddenly overrode my exhaustion.

“You need to come to the hospital right away. It looks like your son has had too much to drink. He was unresponsive when we found him, so we had to bring him in. He’s underage, so I’ll stay with him until you get here.”

The man hung up before I had a chance to catch my breath. I turned to my husband and grabbed the car keys. This. Was. Not. Happening. One of my worst nightmares had apparently come true. With racing hearts but outward calm, we ran to the car. My husband had also imbibed a cup or two in the spirit of Purim, so I was the designated driver. With jittery hands, I parked outside the hospital and we sprinted to the emergency room, not knowing what we would find. We said Tehillim all the way, frightened beyond words.
Why did our teenager always insist on taking things to the extreme? We found him in the emergency room lying on a gurney, with an IV drip in his wrist. His face was as white as a sheet, and he was moaning in his sleep.

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