It was about thirty-five years ago, a few days before Purim.
Nachy, our firstborn, was not quite three months old, and --
despite being exhausted from sleepless nights, and feeling
rushed and stressed out from the mishloach monos
preparations that were yet to be started, I decided that our
son absolutely needed a Purim costume.
For some reason, I had a small fabric remnant lying around of
some gaudy metallic black and gold material, which would be
just the thing for a royal cape. I took a scissors and
rounded off the two lower corners, sewed a hem all around,
and inserted a broad gold-colored ribbon that was left over
from the baby presents we'd been receiving. Tied in a big bow
under our baby's triple chins, it looked adorable. Quite
appropriate, too, I thought, for is not a new baby the little
king of the household, whose every wish sends his parents
sucrrying to serve him?
"But he needs a crown!" I exclaimed, and sent Dovid to buy a
sheet of shiny gold construction paper from which I would
fashion a simple crown. Upon Dovid's return, however, it
seemed that there was to be a change of plans. It developed
the his Royal Highness was momentarily in more urgent need of
a clean diaper (remember those primitive things?) than of a
"I'll do it!" Dovid offered, helpfully. Make the crown, he
meant, not change the baby.
I hesitated. Could I trust anyone other than myself with this
important task? Then again, after all, how could anyone
possibly get it wrong? Every kindergartner knows how to make
a crown: you cut big zigzags along the length of the paper,
paste the ends together, and there you are with a nice high
pointy crown. Even if the first few tries came out a bit
lopsided, the sheet of gold paper was big enough for maybe
four attempts. Besides, I wasn't a perfectionist, and a
lopsided crown would be fine, maybe even more comical and
Purimdik. So I gave my consent.
Exit Nachy and I stage left into the bedroom. But when we
emerged, fresh and fragrant, some minutes later, I was
aghast! Dovid had cut the entire paper into several long,
narrow strips. He hadn't succeeded in coaxing a single zigzag
out of his scissors.
Oh, no! How could I have entrusted him with this task? True,
any kindergartner could do it, but had I forgotten that Dovid
never went to kindergarten? At least, not as I had known it,
with easels to paint on while wearing our fathers' old white
shirts buttoned down our backs, with finger painting, sewing
up Easter bunnies with buttons for the eyes (I went to public
school), a toy kitchen in one corner and lots of little
Golden Books. At the Yerushalmi cheder that Dovid
attended, they learned kohmetz alef, AWWW! in loud
chorus, not arts and crafts.
Nowadays, I would have bit my tongue, but at the time, I
said, or perhaps screeched, something along the lines of,
"Oh, no! What have you done? What were you thinking? That's
not the way to make a crown! And look! You've ruined the
whole sheet of paper. Now it won't be good for anything!"
Dovid winced, I seem to remember, at this onslaught, but I
was concerned with more important things, like producing an
acceptible looking crown for His Highness. But not answering,
he calmly proceeded to paste together one broader strip to
form a ring, a plain round diadem, which I did not find at
all impressive. Then he pasted the narrow strips in arches
onto this diadem, and at the point where they crossed each
other on the top, he pressed down to form graceful curves.
Voila, a crown! In point of fact, a much more realistic
looking crown than the crude and jagged object of my
imagination. Like the silver crown of a sefer Torah
and not, lehavdil, like the crowns of the "Three
Kings" in winter school pageants of mine...
"Oh!" I exclaimed, rather astonished. Then I took a snippet
of left over cape material, wrapped it around some tissue
paper, sewed it closed to make a matching button for the
middle of the crown, and had a color-coordinated Purim
costume that any almost-three-month-old would surely wear
with pride. I popped the finished joint effort onto Nachy's
head. There was, as yet, no hair to which to attach it, but
still, how cute!
I think of little Erica Weinstein, of the blonde pony tail,
long bangs and the very pink ears, in our Honors English
class. "Why shouldn't we insult people who don't see things
the way we do?" Mrs. Smith asked the class one day. As
always, hands flew up, waving in the air all around.
"Because a person should be humble and not proud!' "Because
it's not polite to insult people!" "Because it might make
them feel bad."
"No, no, no!' Mrs. Smith kept saying, shaking her head and
laughing harder and harder. "Something much more obvious!
Don't you get it?" I, too, was stumped. Rack my brains as I
would, I couldn't come up with any answers besides those
flying around the classroom.
Finally, she called on Erica, an average student in a class
of brilliant students who were headed for Ivy League schools.
Erica, too, was laughing.
"Because they just might be right!" she blurted. We all
stared at her, open- mouthed, as we collectively "discovered
Of course, on `the day,' Nachy refused point blank to have
that foreign object placed atop his head, and spit up
immediately all over the elegant royal cape. But never mind.
Far more important was the lesson,
"There's More Than One Right Way to Make a Crown."