It Was a Beautiful Celebration

The Monday After…

Me and my beautiful girl
Me and my beautiful girl

Melancholy and contentment in equal parts this morning, as I reflect on my beautiful daughter’s beautiful bat mitzvah weekend.

Surrounded by loving family and friends from Friday afternoon until late yesterday, we were enveloped in the kind of community love that makes life worth living.

My daughter did her part, demonstrating her mastery of Hebrew and Torah reading and learning in a private service Saturday evening in a packed chapel, with those we love ascending the bimah to share in our recitation of familiar meaningful words.

Eliana and friends at her bat mitzvah party
Eliana and friends at her bat mitzvah party

And then, we partied.

Every minute of our perfectly orchestrated celebration was crafted with expertise and came off without trouble. The decorations, the ambience, the lighting and the music at our urban warehouse party, a backdrop for the person my daughter is today and the woman she is becoming.

In various religions, we construct milestones of meaning so that we stop and appreciate how far we’ve come, and who we have around us.

In her party dress and painted Converse high tops
In her party dress and painted Converse high tops

For us, the bat mitzvah is that moment of culmination, from childhood reckoning to adult responsibility. Now, Eliana is obligated in the rituals and observances of our faith.

She is also celebrated for her talents and her wisdom, and realizes (I hope) that this is the beginning of the journey, not the end.

The custom Converse sneakers Eliana wore for her party, painted by Camryn Monfried
The custom Converse sneakers Eliana wore for her party, painted by Camryn Monfried

I’ve planned two mitzvahs this year, incredible, costly celebrations for my eldest two children, to honor who they are and who they will become.

Me and my boys, Friday night
Me and my boys, Friday night

We’ve connected to generations past, to rituals and words practiced by millions of ancestors before us. We’ve honored the lineage that is the common thread of community and belief.

And I’ve tried, very hard, to highlight the uniqueness of each of my children on their special weekends, their special days, their events’ special tenor and tone.

Years ago, when I contemplated hosting mitzvahs for my children, I wrinkled my nose at the prevailing concept of excess that seems to dominate these celebrations. I vowed not to be the parent who goes all out with extraordinary spending and unrelated event details.

My darling daughter
My darling daughter

But along the way, in a book I bought to guide me through the tumultuous waters of event planning.

I learned that the precedent for making a bar/bat mitzvah on the scale of a wedding dates to the 16th century, when a rabbi highlighted the importance of celebrating the completion of a father’s obligation in bringing his son (it was all male then) through the rocky waters of childhood to the point of being an adult in his tradition.

Then, the rabbi insisted, it was on the child, not the parent, for his continuation of and commitment to Jewish observance.

The celebration, one could deduce, would be for the parent, really, and not for the child, but it should be big, celebratory, significant, memorable.

It was then that I succumbed to the notion of a big deal day for my beautiful children.

imageBut for me, the celebration is for them and not for me.

Yes, I have brought them to this time, but as parents we bring our children to one milestone and then another. It never ends.

Even when they go off on their own, we hope to remain connected as a guiding light through the journey of their lives. It does not end.

We can celebrate moments along the way, and we should, recognizing all the ways in which this life gifts us an opportunity to celebrate and cherish.

The role of a parent is to eternally maintain that flame of inspiration for her children, that voice of wisdom, that partner in the act of creation of a meaningful life.

I loved this weekend celebrating my daughter. It was an event that exemplified her style and nature, her learning and her uniqueness.

The style was hers entirely, the spotlight on her.

And I was reminded once again that it is the moments that comprise the days, the days that build the months, that add up to the years of our lives, which hopefully we direct toward meaning and purpose … and love.

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