Saturday, March 20, 2004

We all went up to New York for Evan Belkin's Bar Mitzvah. It was nice to travel all together. Jack was certain that the trip was all about going to the Pokemon Store in Rockefeller Center. The best thing is that he wound up having a great time at the reception. He sat with a bunch of other kids his age and ran around and ran around for hours.

Am I cool enough to be in this family?

At the Bar Mitzvah itself, Jack was very fidgety. I was pretty fidgety, too. I noticed lately that I have a lot of trouble sitting still for long periods of time. I look at other people in meetings and am amazed that they can sit in one position for hours. Well, at the Bar Mitzvah I sat and stared at all of the plaques on the wall of remembrance. I liked them better than the ones at Adas Israel because these plaques had the years when the person was born and died. On the Adas plaques no-one knows that you only lived 7 years and the guy underneath you lived 99 or whatever. I want everyone to know you died when you were only a kid. I don't know why that is so important to me.

At one point during the service, Jack rested his head on my lap. He looked up at me and I looked down at him. We kept looking at each other - really deeply, without blinking - and I started to cry. Neither one of us looked away. I think for a moment I saw you in Jack's face. It was all very emotional.

The service was very nice and Evan did a great job leading some prayers, reading his haftorah and talking about his portion. When it was Lisa's turn, she said the most beautiful things about Evan.

Evan, my son, today you will become… yourself.

You thought I was going to say “Today you will become a man,” now, didn’t you?

Well, in a way, that’s what I mean. You are well on your way. And when I look at you today, in your very cool suit, with your very straight teeth, gaining on me in height every second, and when I look back at all the years made out of moments that led up to this moment, I see a sharp, bold outline of the man that you will be.

That man will be a loving man. I know that because I have seen you with your cousins, and with your following of young children, who adore you because you adore them and because they see in you someone they sense they want in their corner, someone they want to be like.

He will be a creative man. One who looks at the world and sees a story, a movie, a drama, a scene, a Technicolor tableau that the rest of us just don’t see. He will write, or film -- or not. Definitely he will dream. Whatever he does, it will use his glorious imagination.

He will be a learned man. Devouring books. And he’ll need a whole lot more book shelves than you have in your room already if he is to keep reading at the rate you’ve been going at for years. I remember reading you Harry Potter. You became impatient; I wasn’t going fast enough. So you stayed up all night, finished the umpteen pages on your own, and carried the book down to breakfast the next morning like a treasure. “Mommy,” you said, “there’s a whole world inside this book.” May you continue to explore those worlds.

He will be a funny man. I am in a holy sanctuary now. So I can’t repeat many of the quips and lines and comebacks you’ve come up with over the years. But trust me, he will be funny.

He will also make a mean marinara sauce, and know the words to every song he’s ever heard as well as the cast and plot of every movie written at the turn of this century, and the tricks of every video game.

He will really, really, really love his dog.

He will have warm and sustaining Jewish memories, of Havdalah during an eclipse at the Shabbaton, and singing Adon Olam to the tune of Carmen, and doubling with laughter at the Purim spiel. When he needs them, these memories will anchor him always.

And he will be a kind and empathetic man. The sort who, as a child, was only awoken from sleep by one thing – the sound of his baby brother crying. The sort who, hearing that the son of a friend was sick, packed up his entire Pokemon collection and mailed it off to Washington, D.C. The sort who, when he got his braces off last week said “Mom, let’s go show Grandpa Mike right now,” and not just because it would make you a little later for school, but because you knew Grandpa Mike had had a really bad week.

When you are fully and completely a man, you will look back and see how these moments from your past, including the one we are sharing right now, all led you to wherever you are in your future.

Like the film you put together for your mitzvah project, the whole of your life will be a collage of moments – some you already know, some you can’t yet even imagine. The whole of who you become will be made of slivers of me and Daddy, your grandparents, your brother, your aunts and uncles and cousins and friends, your careful plans and your chance encounters.

The story – your story – will be how you arrange all these. How you meld them together, and make them yours, and become yourself.

Yes, some of who you are is in your genes, and some is out of your hands. But most of it is choice and work and trust and love.

Today, Evan, you continue to become yourself. And the world is already a better place because of that.

She is a very special friend, mother and writer. We are lucky that Lisa and Bruce and Evan and Alex came into our lives. It would not have happened without you.

I took this picture of Jack during the reception. He looks pretty grown up now dontcha think.

I love you so much.

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