Daugher of a Doofus
In many circles, including the one in which I grew up, a bar or bat mitzvah means a Jewish religious service, led by an adolescent who is ready to assume the role of an adult in the Jewish community, followed by a big party. Literally, however, bar mitzvah means son of the commandments, and bat mitzvah means daughter of the commandments. So technically, my daughter didn’t have her bat mitzvah yesterday, she became one.
She did have a big party after the service, though. And there’s the rub. I suck at party planning–totally suck at it.
One of my duties was to write a speech that my husband and I (okay, I) would present to the congregation and our daughter on the bima (pulpit). That should be no problem for me, right? Wrong. It was tough. I couldn’t figure out how to get started. Should I go the “detailed retrospective of her life” route? Or should I dive right into the “study hard and be a good Jew” routine?
C’mon, I scolded myself, you know how to do this! Start with a decent hook that leads you to the essence of your desired message. My goal was to say something meaningful that neither bored people to tears nor took the spotlight away from my daughter, that wasn’t trite, and that was no more than one double-spaced page.
I stared at a blank screen for hours, but I couldn’t find my point of entry. Eventually, it occurred to me: start with the good stuff: chocolate. Whew! I was off and writing, and it was with great pleasure that I tucked a double-spaced printed draft into the back of my siddur (prayer book) yesterday morning.
My daughter did beautifully. The prayers, the Torah reading and Haftorah, the cues to the congregation, her speech–all lovely. Then it was my turn.
On the rabbi’s cue, I slipped the paper out of my siddur, and my husband and I approached the podium. Friends, family, and miscellaneous congregants watched expectantly as I unfolded the paper. I looked down, ready to read the speech on which I’d worked so hard.
Unfortunately, I found myself staring not at my speech, but at series of poems for a candle lighting ceremony at the reception. I looked up and the audience. Down at the paper. Nope, still not the speech. For a split second I considered just reading the little poems my daughter had penned:
Right. There was no way I was pulling that off. In one fell swoop I had demonstrated that my daughter was not only a daughter of the commandments, she was also the daughter of a doofus.
“This,” I announced, holding the paper up for inspection, “Is not my speech. It’s poems for the candle lighting. Looks like I’m winging it.” And I did.
After the ceremony, some guests asked about it, and when I said the one I’d written was better, they said, “Blog it!” So here it is. It’s not the best speech ever written, and it slightly exceeded the one double-spaced page rule, but it’s honest, heartfelt, and still folded up in my purse.
Here we are, 13 years later, watching you read from the Torah. You’ve grown into a beautiful, sweet, and smart young lady who takes life’s challenges head on, who speaks her mind, and who pursues her interests. Daddy and I could not be prouder.
Thanks for writing. You make my week!
I am crying reading this. (I confess, I am selfishly thinking a bit about my own son's upcoming Bar Mitzvah, just a bit over a year from now and thinking how glad I am this speech is not a tradition at our shul!) What a beautiful speech, and even if it wasn't delivered exactly as written, I am sure it was from the heart and eloquent and now the “real” one is preserved for posterity!
Wonderful speech! Sounds suspiciously like the one you actually gave. That says a lot about your short term memory. Thank you for including us in Hannah's special day. She is a vivacious and adorable young lady. Kind of like her mom!
Beautiful words for your daughter. My son had a rough start in the beginning too. Certainly has a way of changing your perspective on things. Taste of an ice cream cone (oh no, it's dairy!), nibbles of chocolate (eek), and sucking on the end of a Slim Jim (the horrors) to pacify him when we were stuck in a horrible traffic jam. Couldn't agree with you more.
Awww! So touching! I'm glad you had the chance to share your speech with the rest of the world. I'm following you on GFC. Thanks for stopping past 🙂
Oh, this is so beautiful. When I think of Hannah, I think of a little girl, but she's become a young lady. Congratulations to her!