"While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about."
When I voiced my apprehension towards attending her son Ben’s bar mitzvah, my friend Karen replied with a long list of reasons for why I needed to be there. Chief among them being that it would be impossible for me not to smile while doing the hora. Of course she was correct. In my defense, I was far too busy being consumed by the life-ness of life to be interested in mingling with strangers and pretending to be happy. The idea of bar mitzvah-ing sounded daunting and at the time - Thursday - I thought that I would rather spend the day at home, day drinking and being pitiful.
Invite me to parties. Please. I am fun.
This would be my first bar mitzvah, which I stated, fairly excitedly, to anyone who asked. Though my normal extensive researching was thwarted by my wallowing so much so that I did not have the opportunity to Google “how do you open a prayer book” prior too attending. Which means that I spent the first 20 minutes of the service holding it upside down and frowning then making attempts to will it open. There I sat, then stood, then sat, then stood again while clutching my book. Sometime after the third or fourth standing I stopped white knuckling and started paying attention, absorbing, appreciating the moment and then crying.
One minute I was having such deep thoughts such as:
- What if it’s your bar or bat mitzvah and you cannot carry a tune?
- Why didn’t I learn Hebrew before I left the house?
- Why didn’t I have breakfast?
- I really like that woman’s hair/dress/make up. Why doesn’t my ass look like that?
- But seriously, what are they saying?
And then suddenly:
- Oh my What is happening? Why are my eyes watering?
Through the rest of his ceremony being at once exceedingly confused and proud. Subsequently, less interested in what I didn’t know in more in what I did which was to grasp the enormity of it all and the honor that it was to have even been invited. In typical me fashion I lost sight and the purpose only to quickly regain it, thankfully.
One of my favorite memories of Ben is from one of the first times I had the pleasure of hanging out with him. Like any child, he was curious about me and my life and took the time during dinner one evening to pepper me with questions about my job, my age, my marital status. We went through the basics; lobbyist, 25, not married and no children. We had already gone through how I knew his mother - she was a literary agent and I want for her to represent me. After satisfying him with my answers he paused. “You know”, he started and I mentally braced myself for a thinly veiled insult to come from this nine year old. “You’ve done a lot for someone your age”, was said rather matter-of-factly. And he casually went back to his food while the adults at the table glanced at each other in awe. Because this kid (or “man” as he was so quick to inform me post-party as we kicked a ball around the lobby of his apartment. Me, in a dress and barefoot. Ben the “man” with a giant cupcake stain on his shirt). This is why I cried. This wonderful, spectacular really funny kid. A child who found himself gladly standing in front of those who loved him most and using his call to the Torah to talk about bullying. This no nonsense, all joy, kid. Ben’s dad asked me if I was going to blog about it and I thought that I would have all of this insight and be full of deep thought. In reality, the part where I tell Karen FINE. YOU WERE RIGHT is that instead of remaining consumed by myself I was too busy being happy to be there.
With the strangers, the Hebrew, the hora and all.