We are rounding the corner to a major milestone in our lives – our only daughter, our middle child, the one whose strong and healthy heartbeat drowned out the sorrow of the still-raw loss of our infant son when she made her entrance into this world nearly 13 years ago – is about to become a bat mitzvah.
As you can see, I’m feeling more than a little sentimental.
My daughter is an amazing young woman. She has not yet climbed any mountains, or written her first novel, or created a brilliant science experiment or even aced a report card.
She is, in many ways, your garden variety almost-teen – giggly, friend-obsessed, and thinking a lot about clothing, and boys, and One Direction (and if you don’t know that last reference, which I didn’t until three weeks ago, then you are clearly not the parent of a young teenage girl.)
Thankfully, she has not yet had to face any serious health issues, deal with any major family hurdles or wade through major life obstacles. Which, if all things go according to plan, is exactly what it should be like when you’re 13.
She is bright and sunny and funny. Just as her older brother did when he was 13, she is trying on new skins, trying to figure out which ones fits her like a glove. She has lots of friends, many of whom are going to join us to celebrate in a few weeks. She is doing well in school, plays basketball, babysits for a lot of young kids on our block who idolize her, and is thinking about what to do this summer.
As she gets older, she is starting to be a little more analytical about the world, asking more sophisticated questions, and thinking about what she sees.
She thinks her brothers smell, but she puts up with them because, in fact, they both adore her.
She is the key to the relative calm and peace between siblings in our family. She breaks up the competition and the anger between the two brothers, and inserts herself as the voice of calm and reason and arbiter of musical tastes.
She likes girly things, but isn’t terribly girly. She has lots of very athletic friends, but isn’t overly athletic. She likes to eat a wide variety of foods and to cook, but doesn’t extend herself in the kitchen very often.
She is the most poised and self-possessed young person I know. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to assure myself that she is my daughter.
When I started writing this ode, I thought I was going to write about how much I missed my mother during the planning stages for the bat mitzvah. Not surprisingly, we’re having a big party to celebrate, and planning it is actually a lot of fun. I’ve been thinking that there is no one who would enjoy hearing every little detail, from the menus to the color of the balloons and glow sticks, to the poems being written for the candle lighting ceremony, as much as my mother.
But then I realized that, in fact, I had someone else with whom I was sharing each and every one of those details. My daughter and I have been doing this together. She is unbelievably organized, and has taken to party planning like a fish to water. We have allowed her to make most of the decisions about decorating, food, invitation design and most everything else. She has risen to the occasion, helping to plan a party that reflects who she is. And we’ve been having fun doing it together.
Of course, the real purpose of the celebration is to watch her step up to the bimah and take her place in the Jewish community. She will be reading Torah, intoning prayers, and presenting a “d’var”, an interpretation of the Torah reading she is doing. She is also taking on a community service project as part of the process. She is handling all of these tasks with aplomb, and I know that I will simply be beaming at her that morning as she steps up to become an adult in our community.
It has been a gift to share this journey with her.
Before the bar or bat mitzvah child begins to read the Torah in our synagogue, the parents get to offer a blessing. I wrote my blessing a long time ago, and made sure that it was short, sweet and had no real triggers to release the floodgates of my tears. It’s my promise to each of my children that I will do everything in my power not to cry in public when they are taking their place on the bimah for their bar and bat mitzvahs. It is their day, not mine.
So this is the opportunity to offer the sloppy, sentimental blessing I would really like to offer my daughter, if it wasn’t going to turn me into a waterfall.
Here it is.
My daughter, you have brought such deep and profound joy to my life, I never knew I could love the way I do until you arrived. When one has suffered a loss as deep as the one that your father and I suffered, you don’t know if you can ever recover. But you can, and we learned that by having you.
My beautiful, sweet song of a girl, I will always love you as much as I did the day you were born, and as much as I do today.
My blessing for you is that you find a path that leads you to delight in life, and that you never let the difficulties keep you down for too long or prevent you from moving on. I hope that you find a profession that you love, friends who support you and a life partner who makes you laugh and loves you as deeply as we do.
I hope you will always know your mind, and listen to its call.
And I hope that wherever you travel, wherever you land, you will remember this special weekend we spent together celebrating the beginning of your adult life with joy and pleasure.
Follow your heart, and I will be there with you, always.
Photo by godutchbaby via Flickr.