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.