Sunday, July 25, 2010

For Em, On Her Bat Mitzvah

In our synagogue, after the Bat or Bar Mitzvah does their Torah and/or Haftarah reading, they give what is known as a d'var torah--a teaching, a speech. Afterwards, our rabbi calls the parents up to say a few words about their child. Here's what I had to say about my child, who had just done me so proud I could barely breathe, much less speak. Thank goodness I'd written it all out, down to the last comma.

Mazel tov, baby. That was wonderful.

It should have been easy for me to figure out what I want to say to you. After all, I've been writing about you since before you were born. Except, recently, I started trying to collect some of those blog posts and emails, thinking I could condense a little and this speech would be done. I started in the present and worked back, and when I got to 50,000 words in 2007 …

The problem is – and it's a good problem – you have so much passion for life and everything in it there's not really one theme I can focus on. I could talk about the things we have in common. You are, like me, a voracious reader, and I love that we've shared so many books together, starting with The Wizard of Oz when you were just-turned 5, through Anne of Green Gables and The Princess Bride and, most recently, Anne Frank.

You are also a great writer, already. A lousy speller, but a great writer, because you have that elusive thing called VOICE. Yours rings clear in everything you put on paper. (Recycled paper, of course.)

And we all know you're focused on and concerned about the world around you; you made it your mitzvah project. But this is a long-time passion. One of those blog posts was about when you were 9 or so and convinced daddy to change the bulbs in your room into CFLs. When it was done, you ran up and hugged him and said, "I'm so happy now! I'm saving the world one lightbulb at a time!" You even wrote a letter to Governer Schwarzenegger asking him to ban incandescent lightbulbs … and then got INCENSED when he didn't write you right back.

You have, like me, always loved learning. Pretty much every teacher who's ever had you talks about your "enthusiasm," even for those subjects you might not excel at. And, like me, you're super cranky in the mornings. Poor daddy.

But what surprises – and delights – me are the ways in which you are NOT like me.

Watching you out on a soccer field is a revelation. It's not just your incredible skills; it's your competitive spirit. It's how PROUD you are to wear the bruises you get, because you play HARD. I know to stay WAY AWAY from you when your team loses, and especially if you made some kind of small error, because you care so much. And I pity the girl who tries to get between you and that ball. Those hips and shoulders of yours are lethal weapons!

And then there's theater. You fell into that world two years ago, when Uncle Marc and Uncle Glen produced Daddy's play. I suppose it was inevitable; it's in your genes. But while I've always stayed back, an observer, you got right in there, right away, doing all sorts of backstage jobs. You've built sets, for crying out loud; you've literally built mountains! If that's not a metaphor for who you are, I don’t know what is.

And, of course, you can read Hebrew – you can read TORAH. Wow. You have no idea how proud that makes me.

You know, I've often talked about how we joined this synagogue because of you. We came here in September of 2005 for an open house, and you were invited in to Hannah's second-grade classroom to observe while Daddy and I went on a tour and had a mimosa. (Which is when WE knew this was the place for US. But I digress.) I remember you sitting down next to a little girl named Cat; it was her first day here. You walked out of that classroom a little while later, beaming, and said, "I want to go here every time." Done.

Now, mimosas aside, I had every intention of being a drop-off mom, waving to you as you went off to Hebrew school, and maybe coming to services on High Holy Days. Somehow or another, it didn't quite work out that way. Your enthusiasm for being a Jew was too big to allow me to sit on the sidelines. And so, your journey into Judaism has also become mine. I couldn't have had a better guide.

One thing I noticed when I was collecting all those blog posts and emails was that I talk often, constantly even, about how mature you are. How thoughtful, especially in the sense of thinking deeply about things. How much you love your brother, even when you guys torture each other, and how protective you are of him. (Anyone who hasn't heard the story of the time you got on all fours over him and GROWLED at strangers approaching you in a park should stop me later and ask…) And, of course, I talk about how passionate and enthusiastic you are. The line I've written over and over? "When I grow up, I want to be just like Em."

Here's where I should break into "our" song and belt out "You are beautiful…no matter what they say…" but I'll spare us all. Still, it's true. You are beautiful, breathtaking, inside and out. And I DO want to grow up to be just like you.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Don't Know HOW He Puts Up With Me

We're in the bat-mitzvah home stretch now, folks. It's all planning, all the time. ALL THE TIME. No, I don't think you understand. ALLLLLLL THEEEEEEEE TIIIIIIIIIIME.

And so, last weekend, I went for a haircut. Because The Plans said that I should do that a couple of weeks in advance of the date, in case something went Horribly Wrong and I wound up with Bad Hair. (Apparently, party planning causes excessive capitalization. Who knew?) This is an actual concern, because I tend to frequent The Cheapest Hair Places in Town. Plus, I just don't know what I want my hair to look like, aside from Not Bad. So sometimes? It winds up Bad.

Anyway. I sat down in the chair, and the woman cutting my hair--Armenian, I think, and it's relevant only in that she had a heavy accent, and a not-especially colloquial way of speaking--started out great, commenting on how the way my gray hair is coming in makes it look like I've had my hair highlighted. This is exactly how my mother went gray, so I was pleased with the compliment, and chatted a bit with her.

In other words, she was on my good side. Then.

So then we start talking about what I want to do with my hair, and I describe the basic idea, and then I say, "...and lots of layers, because it needs to have some shape when it air dries, since I don't really do anything with it after I wash it."

"Nothing?" she said, skeptical.

"Nothing. I wash it, I brush it, I let it air dry."

"No hair dryer?"

"No hair dryer."

"Not even a little bit of mousse?"

"Not even a little bit of mousse."

She was silent, then set to work. After a minute or two, she said, "And your husband doesn't mind this?"

"Doesn't mind what?"

"That you don't take care of yourself."




She took my silence as a yes answer, and continued. "You're lucky that your husband doesn't care HOW you look. My husband cares that I take care of myself. He wants me to look nice all the time."

And she breathed a long-suffering sigh.

But she wasn't done yet. Oh, no. A few minutes later--as she fluffed up my hair with the mousse she'd INSISTED on using, just to show me how wonderful it is to take care of yourself, I suppose--she once again started in.

"It must be nice that your husband just likes you for you and doesn't care that you don't take care of yourself. He's a good man, your husband, yes?"

Oh, yes. A saint. A frickin' saint.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

At Almost 13

She's 12, almost 13. We are getting ready for her to become a Bat Mitzvah, a daughter of the commandments, a Jewish adult. (Just over three weeks! Oy VEY!)

She is, in so many ways, already an adult, already a woman. She is so wonderfully mature. This is the child who, when her teacher had them choose the book they wanted to read for class, chose To Kill a Mockingbird. And couldn't stop talking about what an awesome book it was, how it altered her.

She's passionate about the environment. She's been known to take down a friend who questioned the right of one of the people she loves to marry the person that they love. And don't even think about dissing one of her special-needs friends--much less her brother--or treating them as 'less than.'

It's not all sweetness and light. This is also the child who has told me about a kid she knows who is cutting, another who's dabbling in drugs--mentioned it casually, mentioned it with full understanding, shocked me into silence. I'm not ready. I'm not ready for her to be ready.

So there's all that. And yet. And yet.

Yesterday, she and her friend J went out into the backyard and had a wedding ceremony. In which they each married one their stuffed animals--a goat and a panda. N officiated. There were written-out vows. There was laughing. There was dancing.

Same child. Same woman.

I love almost 13. I don't want it to end. Not yet. Let her stay right here, just a little longer. Just like this. My girl.