Photo Credit: Dr. Chani Miller

We knew, even before the event started, that it was going to end in tears. Despite this inevitable and distressing outcome, we looked forward to the Purim parade with an anticipatory pleasure that was incommensurate with the event itself; but as new-ish grandparents, it was a significant milestone. The oldest kids in the preschool, who were maybe five, started the procession. Unsurprisingly, the girls were princesses and fairies, while the boys were superheroes, dinosaurs and assorted animals; all of them adorable, all of them wearing expressions of varying levels of bewilderment.

As the parade progressed, the children got smaller and smaller, yet our grandson was nowhere to be seen. My husband, an incredibly hands-on zaidy who had worked from home in order to shep some nachas, realized that Baby P was strapped into one of the strollers at the tail end of the line because although he was already walking, his chronological age kept him with the youngest children. Baby P was happy to see us, but clearly he too was a little discombobulated by seeing his mommy and his grandparents in the middle of the day.


After the parade was over, we sat on the floor, with the other parents and babies, singing Purim and Shabbos songs, and chasing Baby P when he got bored and decided to wander around. He was dressed up as a monkey, an ironic homage to toddlerhood, and unlike the itchy costumes of yesteryear, this one was soft and furry and zipped up like pajamas; as far as he was concerned, it was a spiffy new outfit with a super fun long tail. He was a young walker who was also on the small side, so in the crowded room we were afraid someone would step on his tail and he would go flying. But he was an agile little monkey and his tail was spared, and after exploring a little bit and checking out the costumes, the singing was over and it was time to say goodbye.

As predicted, our departure went badly, Baby P sobbed into his zaidy’s shoulder and his soft-hearted zaidy was reluctant to hand him over. About a fourth of the other kids were crying as well, which made me wonder, was it worth it? There’s a short answer and a long answer – both answers are “yes,” but for two different reasons. The short “yes” is that Baby P calmed down and the rest of his day was fine. The longer “yes” is a little more complex and makes you ponder some questions; when does chinuch actually start and who is actually the beneficiary at these events?

Baby P is eighteen months old and is totally clueless that he is a Jewish little boy; his main interests are stuffing Cheez-Its in his mouth, hurling his toys around, and trying to steal his bubby’s cell phone. But each week he is mesmerized by the Havdalah candle even though he has no idea what it means, and in a trick yet to be duplicated he once said “amen” with us at the end. And although he has no words to describe what he is seeing and feeling, we can tell by his body language that he loves the ritual. These teeny tiny moments add up, and while he may not know what Havdalah means, there is a feeling associated with the mysterious colorful candle that magically appears once a week and bursts into flame, a feeling that will settle into the part of his heart that requires no words, a feeling so primal, that years later he won’t even understand why he loves Havdalah so much.

After we got back from the parade I decided that it would be cute to give Baby P his own shalach manos. I selected a tiny sparkly bag and applied a Happy Purim sticker that said “To P, love Bubby and Zaidy” and filled the bag with Cheez-Its, Cheerios, and his favorite apple spinach pouch. Upon receiving the shalach manos on Purim day he lunged instantly for the pouch, downed it in sixty seconds and started on the Cheez-Its. To him, it was a regular Sunday at Bubby and Zaidy’s house, same time, same snacks, same everything. He’ll never remember the cute little bag with his name on it unless his mother decides to keep it, and it’s also possible that unless someone took a picture of it, all of us will forget Baby P’s first shalach manos. What happens to these little moments, the ones that almost seem pointless, like sticking a baby into a monkey suit and upending his normal school day, or giving him a sparkly baggy full of treats? Where do these types of moments go?

In the mid 1990s when Baby P’s mom was a baby, before Instagram, before Amazon, before internet shopping, I didn’t have a clue that I was “supposed” to put my six-month-old into a Purim costume, and even if I would have known, there was no easy way to buy one. I showed up at my parents’ house in Brooklyn to find my seven-month-old nephew dressed up as an adorable little cow, and graciously my sister-in-law let me borrow the hat so I could take a picture of my daughter as half of a cow. It’s amazing to me that I still feel a little bad that my daughter didn’t have a costume on her first Purim, and it’s even more amazing to me that I remember every single detail of that picture that we took; my grandmother’s smile, the ugly brace I wore on my wrist for carpal tunnel, and my daughter’s face – adorable, and totally unperturbed that she was wearing half of a borrowed costume.

Inviting parents and grandparents to school events showcasing their little ones’ achievements is a time-old tradition, a chance for the families to “shep nachas.” If you Google the word “nachas,” the first entry that pops up defines it as “pleasurable pride in the achievements of one’s offspring.” Nachas, however, is so much more nuanced than that. As I sat there with my husband and my daughter, waiting for the Purim parade to start, waiting to see Baby P make his entrance in his little monkey costume, knowing that he would cry later, knowing that years later he would never remember that this had ever happened, I was filled with nachas. Definitely there was a healthy portion of Google-type nachas, the simplistic type of nachas that allows me to boast that my grandson was the cutest baby there. But it was deeper than that, it was a feeling of completeness, of pride not just in my grandson but in the fact that we, the audience, came to celebrate Purim with the next tiny generation, a generation that would carry our Jewish legacy far into the future, a generation that is inheriting such a chaotic world but simultaneously armed with such a rich and powerful heritage. Tiny moments count, even if they are forgotten, and so we embrace them in all their messy glory; the Cheez-Its that end up crushed on the floor, the impromptu borrowed cow hat, and especially the little monkey who cries on his zaidy’s shoulder.

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Dr. Chani Miller is an optometrist and writer who lives in Highland Park, N.J., with her family. She is a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press.