Wednesday, July 11, 2018


The Purim Carnival at the synagogue was a big deal.  A very big deal.

The moms had a rummage sale covering half the room, clothes neatly folded, arranged by gender and size and season.  There was something wonderful about all those garments just lying there on the tables, waiting to be fondled and held up to see if they fit and then taken to the grandma beneath the cashier’s sign.

I don’t remember buying anything.  I do remember looking.

On the other side of the room were the games.  Ring Toss and Magnet Fishing and homemade tests of prowess lined the walls.  The middle was filled with costumed kids.  The costumes were the most fun.  Esther and Haman and Mordecai had cloned themselves a hundred times over.  Small bearded boys and medium bearded boys and larger bearded boys peered out through tiny holes in oversized plastic masks.  Girls in makeup laden masks paraded with stately grace; Esther was a queen, after all.

No one came as Vashti.

Grandma excelled at costume design.  The sewing machine whirred for weeks before the big event, creating a satin dress of many colors for me to wear.  It was gold and blue and red and gorgeous.  I was glamorous.  I was beautiful.  I was 9 or 10 that year, a 4th or 5th grader, just between childhood delight in dressing up and tween angst about fitting in.  I inhabited that outfit as if it were meant to be.  It was.

That day marked one of the 4 times I remember G’ma saying SHIT!  She aimed the hairspray straight into her eyes.  She washed it out as best she could, but a trip to the Emergency Room was required.  She drove herself.  Daddooooo had to take us to the Carnival. In retrospect, that seems weird.  At the time, I went with the flow.

There were tickets to be purchased which would then be exchanged for a chance to play the games.  As we waited to buy ours, I examined a giant jar of jelly beans, sitting on the table next to the cash box.  Beside it was a greens and black and white stuffed penguin, with a white ball point pen attached to his collar.  Guess How Many! Win the Autographable Bird!

Autograph dolls were a big thing in the early 1960’s.  Writing on a toy seemed odd and inappropriate,but there they were, at birthday parties and family gatherings and summer camps.  I had none.  I wanted that one.  But I had no idea how many beans were in that damn jar.  I tried counting around the bottom, tried counting the layers, tried to determine how many stacks of colored candies were in there..... and then Daddooooo was buying our tickets and the girl with the pencil and paper was asking my name and my number.

I told her something.  She wrote something else.

I thought about complaining, but I didn’t want to make a fuss.  I wanted to play.  And I did, until the Rabbi stood up on the stage, microphone in hand, and announced that one person had guessed exactly the right number of beans in the jar.

Suzi Annis.

Everyone applauded.  I was embarrassed.  I went up on the stage, collectedmy treasure, and worried.  Was. It. Mine.  That refrain ran through my head for the rest of the afternoon.  I hadn’t guessed that number at all.  Should I give the toy to the girl who wrote the real number?  Did it really matter?  I could just as easily have said the correct answer; mine was a totally random guess after all.

I carried the penguin for the rest of the afternoon.  I let people sign it, that afternoon and when they came over to play.  The tip of the pen made a satisfying dent in the fabric as the ink flowed on to the beast’s belly.  I drew flowers and hearts on him.  I wrote my own name.

I reveled in his presence, even as he stared at me, knowing that he was in my house under false pretenses.


  1. Hi Ashleigh,
    Your post brings back memories...we all had "autograph dogs" in the 60's! They were prized as birthday gifts and then sat on our beds for all our girlfriends to admire! Thanks for the memories, Cheryl p.s. You write beautifully. Reading your posts is such a pleasure. You paint with words!

    1. Hi, Cheryl! Thanks for the compliments and sharing the memories. The ‘60’s were ab interesting decade in which to come of age, weren’t they?!?!

  2. That is hysterically funny
    Miss you!


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