Friday, September 26, 2008

The Bar Mitzvah Party

Okay, now that it's almost two weeks since the event, it's time to finish recanting. And then I guess I'm going to have to decide if this blog has ended, having served its purpose.

After the service, after the food, we came home in our suits. Bar Mitzvahzilla blase about having done this amazing thing that he'd worked so hard towards for so long, just goofing around with his sister. We got to the hotel at 5:30, 15 minutes late, for photographs. There was the dusk, the lake, the green golf course. Slowly family began arriving at mostly the correct intervals: Husband's sisters, my mother and stepfather, then my sisters and their families. The photographers were ready for their seven sister pictures and then the one of us with our Mom and then the one of us with all our kids and my Mom's great-grandchildren. But, three sisters missing, then two, then one. At 6:15 the last one cruises in, the final pictures are taken and at 6:30 the reception starts.

This is what I remember: passed appetizers that fled by too fast to try again, that were offered, alarmingly, to fingers, and for which, each time I took one, I had to take a Lactase pill. The two open bars crowded but efficient. All of our friends showing up and, unable to catch the passed appetizers on their way by, standing in line for the the kids' stuff: pigs in blankets, egg rolls and chips and salsa. My sister's chocolate placecards a big hit with the kids, the little boxes with truffles as placecards for the adults also a big hit. Jewish stars on everything.

At 7:30 the doors to the ballroom open and it's like a world transformed. The lights are low and there's a pulsing beat from the dance floor. The kids all walk there like the DJ is the pied piper, like they're hypnotized. I watch as they throw their arms in the air, start swaying, and immediately start dancing. Not quite the Bar Mitzvahs I went to in 1973 where the grown ups cha-cha'd and the kids were plastered against the wall waiting for it to end.

Daniel did his candle lighting. Big laughs on the Seven Sister candle with "Wild Thing" playing, the Uncle candle with "Macho Man" playing, D's cousins coming up to some rap song, little sister coming up to "She Drives Me Crazy," and Husband and I to "If I were a Rich Man." Then the hora.

The rest of the night like this: dancing, chocolate eating, food eating at certain intervals, meeting and greeting, trying to get to all the tables, watching all of our friends like all of our other friends, all of our family like all the other people in the family, watching girlfriend with cancer come out of her house after a grueling summer looking gorgeous and getting along with stepfather's daughters beautifully.

There's the strobe light, more dancing, the glow necklaces appear and are suddenly on everyone's heads, arms, and necks. Hats appear and suddenly every kids is walking around with a pimp hat, a rastafarian hat with dread locks, or a gangster hat. More chocolate, Viennese sweet table, sorbet, main dish, dancing. People leave here and there, one by one, but not a lot and the part doesn't really shut down till it ends very naturally, at 11 PM when the music stops and the lights come up. We go through the room getting our chocolate Jewish-themed lollipops out of the centerpieces, loading up the other chocolate extras (Husband never leaves chocolate anywhere). A hotel guard brings us all the envelopes that were kept in a safe in the hotel for us during the party. We go to the car, Daniel's Jewish star blinking balloons with us, blinking all the way home, like our car is a police car with flashers on.

Since I don't drink (or eat chocolate or dessert or sorbet, etc. etc.) I was up at 8 AM the next day ready to go exercise with Husband's cousin, exactly when the phone calls started, with people raving about the party. And the calls didn't stop for over a week, people calling and sending cards and thanking us for such a wonderful time and how it was perfect, from start to end. And I'm a little amazing that, after months of disparate actions - from tutoring appointments at the synagogue to food tasting appointments at the hotel, from making a program on my computer, to shopping for suits and dresses for everyone in my family and realizing almost at the last minute that husband was planning to wear black gym shoes on that day - all those disparate actions somehow came together into a perfect event. A Jewish event that blended Daniel's coming of age with a wonderful party bringing together all the people we have ever loved. Amazing.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

One Week Post Bar Mitzvah - Floating to Earth

Okay, no excuse for not posting in the twenty days before the Bar Mitzvah. Except for Kiddush caterer, photographer, DJ, chocolatier, hotel, Rabbi, Cantor, other Rabbi, synagogue, programs, printed kippahs, getting suits hemmed, getting husband's pants let out (cruise food), floor plans, seating arrangments, centerpieces for the luncheon and the evening, and other things that I can't remember. Just that. Really, no excuse.

And this is how it was: perfection. So beautiful and so perfect that I can sit here and cry a week later. That I'm going to sit here and make my keyboard malfunction by splattering it with the maudlin tears of the Bar Mitzvah Mom a week after the event, and cruelly use you like a diary, just to write about it all.

The service. We show up at 9 AM and I find something interesting out. There's actually no one at Har Zion's services at 9 AM - good to know for the future. By 9:30 there is a semblence of a service going on; by 9:50 both Husband and I and the floor manager are in a panic waiting for the family members with aliyot to show up (we told them, "Sure, it's safe to come at 9:50!!!") and we are anxiously scanning the lobby. But at 9 AM there are a couple of old guys leaning on the bimah, chanting half to themselves, half to the empty seats of the sanctuary; there are a couple of cleaning people running around, there are two of my friends from the old job who show up promptly, and there is my little four-person family: Husband, me, Bar Mitzvahzilla, and little sister.

So, I'll just try to ignore how weird it is that one second - okay, in 1995 - I gave birth to a POUND AND A HALF PREEMIE and now, one second later - okay, 13 years - he is standing before me in a black suit, gorgeous, chanting the Torah and haftorah portions so beautifully that my husband is asking me for tissue after tissue. We are decorous; we are sitting alone in a pew, us and little sis and a pile of siddurim and torah books, some programs and Daniel's gun metal gray kippot, and he's up there and knows everything. Sometimes you go to a Bar Mitzvah and the kid stumbles, or their Hebrew is so bad that nearly the entire service is in English. Not this one. Every word a pearl.

He practically runs through the sanctuary with the Torah. I'm behind him shaking hands of all the well-wishers in the congregations and he's miles ahead of me. Husband and I are on the bimah, off the bimah, watching the aliyot, then our aliyot. We say a few words, which, darn, I should have scripted but, guess what, in all the lists and all the things everyone told me to do, I entrusted this to Howard and he didn't do it. He said his own words then left me, the flustered mom, floundering.

The Kiddush, 16 tables all set up with royal blue tablecloths packed with people. My blue and white Israeli-flag-themed centerpieces on each table. The food perfect, the four lines zooming the people through quickly. Howard and I can't get a seat almost and then we pretty much can't get a bite because of all the well-wishers, all the envelopes pressed into our hands, all the congratulations on Daniel's wonderful job done. We stumble home.

I'll leave the party recanting for a separate post.