I loved having young children, but I don’t miss having to dress them up for Purim. Before the days of being able to search on Amazon for “Mordechai costume, size 3,” buying a Purim outfit was a real investment of time and money. Which is probably why, after I bought a cow costume for our son Mendy, he dressed up as a cow for at least three years.

People advised buying costumes the day after Halloween, but I never did that. Instead, I used to take our kids to the nearby costume store, an outing that became one of our family’s Purim traditions.Why did I go inside?

I guess I chose the place because it was the first one in the phone book under “Costumes.” I knew how to get there, too. The question is, once I got there, why did I go inside?

Even from the outside, the store looked like the setting for a scary movie. The paint was chipping, the windows were dark. Everything inside said “old”: the creaky wood floors, the scent of the clothing, the dusty counters. Emily, the owner, was also old, and so was her husband, whose name I never knew.

The first time I showed up at the store, I half expected Alfred Hitchcock himself to be waiting inside when the front door buzzed and let me in. Instead, Emily was cordial and calm. She wasn’t judgmental either; if I wasn’t interested in Frankenstein or Elvis costumes, that was fine with her.

So I kept going back.

“It’s that time of year again,” I would announce as Emily came towards the front counter to greet me and my small brood. Costumes hung behind her and on both sides of the store. Seeing Dorothy’s dress from “The Wizard of Oz” hanging exactly where it had been the year before, I would second-guess myself for keeping up this eery tradition.

And yet, I think I kept going back to see the almost macabre cheeriness of the owners, the simple enjoyment Emily and her husband had in working together just to help people dress up. Emily never seemed to get older in all the years I went to her store. And her husband, who seemed to be there just to fetch what she wanted, never got older either.

If I told her a costume was too expensive, Emily would explain all the work involved in making it. (I always preferred buying over renting, hoping that I could slowly build my own costume collection.) Inevitably, it felt like I walked out with too little costume for too much money.

And, every year, helmets got lost and belts got broken, so my collection never seemed to grow. My kids did, though, and eventually they didn’t need me to take them to get Purim costumes anymore. They had their own ideas and were able to get what they wanted themselves. It was a big relief for me, almost as big as when they were able to organize their own mishloach manot, the gifts of food that comprise one of Purim’s four essential mitzvahs. (The other three are hearing the Megillah, giving tzedakah to the poor and eating a festive meal.)My collection never seemed to grow

I recently drove by the costume store, almost expecting it not to be there anymore. But there it was, looking just the same. This means that inside are probably two really, really old people surrounded by really, really old costumes, which confirms my original suspicion that there was something otherworldly about the place, and everything that went on inside of it.

Whenever my kids and I reminisce about Purim, we laugh about going to that store. I am relieved that they have happy memories because that means I did a good job of hiding the fact that I often felt overwhelmed by the physical demands of the holiday.

What I loved, and still love, about Purim is its eternal, spiritual lesson—that until the Messianic era, G‑d alone protects the Jewish people from the descendants of the biblical Amalek, such as Haman, who hate us. And the fact that G‑d protects us through “nature” doesn’t mean that there are no miracles. (How else can you explain the fact that we’re still here?)

Now that our kids are grown, I am less overwhelmed by the holiday of Purim. I especially enjoy watching our married children celebrate Purim with their children. I hope they don’t have to hide anything about their own experiences, but it’s okay if they do, as long as they also do everything possible to make sure that the joy comes through.