When I was in junior high, my school did something I thought was really fun. Every year, the 8th grade theater students would dress up as the historical figure of their choosing. During the time normally devoted to learning acting skills, they would walk around to different classrooms and introduce themselves as that character. I’d always been a dramatic kid and, as a younger student, I remember looking up to those 8th graders every year. Finally, it was my turn and I wanted to choose something different, something people would remember. So I made my choice.
Most of my classmates were choosing sports figures, actors or politicians so to say my 5th-century-bce choice was odd would be putting it mildly. I can’t say for sure what prompted me to reach back millennia when everyone else was into Backstreet Boys’ Millennium and Will Smith’s Willennium — my dad was pretty religious, so part of me was probably trying to impress him. He wasn’t supportive of my creative aspirations, but I thought if I could somehow connect what I cared about with his Evangelical Christian viewpoint, then maybe he’d give me the attention and approval I desperately craved.
I don’t remember the particulars about my performance as Queen Esther. Honestly, I don’t remember much of junior high in general because of the abuse and neglect I was experiencing. For some reason, the decision and the memory of playing a powerful heroine and survivor — not that I connected it with my own trauma — made an imprint.
Over the next few years, I endured and then was able finally to sever ties with a father who twisted religion as a way to torment me. He was my Haman.
I felt a connection to something spiritually. I also felt incomplete. There would be no way to find peace in the church I’d been raised in, so I spent the next decade trying to figure out what felt right for me.
Last year, a few months before my Beit Din — years into my Jewish Journey and on the brink of my conversion to Judaism — my friend Aimee invited me to make hamantaschen over Zoom with her. I was excited to be celebrating all the Jewish holidays for the first time and she was thrilled to have someone join the tradition she had started with her daughter, even if we were in our own kitchens squinting at our screens.
One by one, we formed our jam-filled pastries and held up the most triangular ones to our cameras, careful not to get flour on the electronics. I thought about how it’s possible to leave a legacy — something palpable for generations we can’t even imagine existing.
It took 25 years, but I found my way back 2,500 years to Queen Esther.