Things I loved: How the Bat Mitzvah took on her role and did her ceremony on her terms. How her parents' pride and love and joy in their daughter's accomplishments glowed on them like the brilliant threads woven through the tallits wrapped around their shoulders. I loved getting all teary and telling my Jewish goddaughter I was so "verklemt" and meaning every bit. I loved how the kids and how the boys and maybe girls too had Shirley Temples the bartender had mixed in a pitcher and thought they wouldn't like because they were so sweet, and I loved how the girls all took their shoes off and danced and the boys kept their shoes on and then they danced too. I loved seeing which songs they danced to and which songs they didn't. I loved how no one got out of control or anything although you could tell there was total drama in the room when a couple of people paired off, and then a few more, but not everyone -- it was all just like her mom said it would be: like a middle-school dance. I loved at the end (10:45) how there was this whooshing out and suddenly the kids were gone, and how a handful of them said thanks to the parents (and a few more called the next day) but all of them said thanks to the Bat Mitzvah girl herself and were really nice (and I later heard, thought the parents and their family and friends were really cool for dancing). I loved dancing with my daughter, and with my sweetie, and with my dear Deadhead friends. I loved the way some people took pictures and other people did not, I liked how my goddaughter stood up and all the people around her stood up for her, without just the right amount more circumstance than the ceremony at the temple itself at the party that night. I loved my godfamily's willingness to quit arguing and get done what needed to get done, and my own, for that matter. I love my godfamily's beliefs, and I love my godfamily's bellies. I loved the nonverbal conversation I had with an L.A. lawyer's wife next to the dance floor, after having both danced quite a bit. I loved being cool and uncool. I loved the picture I took of two guests, and of my older goddaughter with my daughter. I loved that I got video of my dear friend on camera dancing again! I loved giving my goddaughter something she really wanted, that she can use for a long time and that will allow her to express her true creativity. Of course, I loved it that she named her new camera "Fred" right away.* I loved feeling like our presence, each and every one of us, meant something to every other one there. I loved the connectedness I felt, even when I felt awkward at the end when everyone was saying their goodbyes. I loved the recognition of family being whom you are born to and the ones you choose to keep around you, the ones you want to watch your back, to be your best for, besides your family of origin.
What I didn't love, my only regret, was not standing up and saying something in a toast that night. I guess I wanted to speak to her more directly through the gifts I chose for her; I had a message that I thought might embarrass her or make her feel pressured to reveal her proverbial hand to too many, too soon. And sometimes toast-talk feels like showing off, total self-aggrandizement: "Look how smart I am, how much more I know than a 13-year-old." I didn't want to do that for her sake or mine. So here, now, are a few things I would have wanted to hear at 13:
- Heed your instincts.
- Listen to your parents. They know a few things.
- If you need to find other parental figures, or friends you rely on, that's okay, too. You are allowed to lean on and love more than just your parents. (Which I'm sure this whole Bat Mitzvah-becoming process clues you into as well.)
- Dare yourself to do something new, often. (Because sooner or later you will fail, but you'll always learn from failure, at least as much as you do from success.)
- This was my parents' advice to me (and I've always been grateful for it because they were right): Don't go anywhere alone with anyone you don't feel 100 percent great about. You ought to be willing to tell anyone about them and go anywhere with them if you like them that much.
- It sounds like a cliche, but that's because it's true: You can do anything.
*Someone expressed their surprise at the name Fred for the new camera, and my goddaughter, who was happily bonding with her new toy/tool, said, "Yeah, Fred's gay. He came out of the box." (Funnier still: at about the same time, I was back in my hotel room was writing notes about my novel character's, story arc. Did I mention his name is Fred, too? They have so much in common! I'll have to introduce them. You know how it is: they'll either love each other or hate each other!) ;-)