Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Splish splash ... and other more important stuff

Wow, thanks for all the encouragement yesterday. I felt so loved and cared for!

I am nothing if not an attention hound, and I just lapped up all y'all high-fivin' me and patting me on the back for getting Fred and Ethel Backfat into the pool for something more than floating in a lounge chair with a mojito.

And after my swim, I felt so incredibly great that I can't even believe I took all those months off to laze and lollygag.

So I'm doing it again. Yay me!

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Jenni from Prairie Air left this comment as a side note to Tuesday's exercise orgy:

Now I'm curious about this bat mitzvah stuff. You said you got a part time job to help pay for it, so I'm thinking these things are pretty huge. I'd love to hear more about this tradition since I just know the very basics of it.

Some of you, I know, are Jewish (or know other Jewish families) and already understand what this was about, but for those of you who aren't/don't, here is the reader's digest (and HIGHLY simplified) version:

The Jewish community considers the age of 13 to be the dividing line between childhood and adulthood, and the expression of that leap from one side to another is the bar (for a boy) or bat (for a girl) mitzvah. Literally this means "son (or daughter) of the commandment" and, also, literally, just means that your child will stand in front of the congregation on a Saturday morning and read from the Torah, marking that entrance to Jewish adulthood.

Of course, in our society, 13 is hardly the harbinger of maturity and good sense, so this "adulthood" thing is purely symbolic in many ways.

There is an old joke that goes like this: "Today I am a man ... tomorrow I go back to the eighth grade."

And that, my friends, is the essence of it.

The date is selected three years (or more) in advance; the preparation for learning the prayers actually started in kindergarten, with tutoring to learn the chanted reading of the particular Torah portion for that week beginning about six months prior to the date.

The child's participation in the religious service can be just the Torah reading, or it can include more prayers and other religious moments.


There are trappings that go with. A party, mainly. And a lot of presents (mostly cash these days).

And in my humble opinion, that party has gotten waaaaaaay out of hand and can cost more than the gross national product of some small nations. This bothers me at its core, since truly the purpose of the synagogue ceremony is religious and symbolic, not materialistic.

Drummer Man had a respectably sized party. The Drama King's was way out of my comfort zone, but it was during bad marital times when the use of my money by my then-husband spiraled out of my control (a topic for another day).

Z-man opted for no party, but just an expanded version of the luncheon put on at the synagogue every week by the sisterhood, with the promise of something more "out of the box," like a trip to Las Vegas. At this point, if the boy ever learns to drive, the promise has morphed into a serviceable (and used) car.

When it came to the Roo-girl, however, she had ideas of her own. The "no-party" option was not in her vocabulary, and I started squirreling away nickels and dimes in anticipation.

Please do not get the impression that Roo was not completely involved in the spirit of this event. It's just that she wanted a party, and I wanted to give it to her -- within reason.

The second job idea kinda came out of nowhere. I was a dedicated Curves member, and it occurred to me that maybe I could make a few bucks by working the 4-hour Saturday shift. The owner of my location was amenable to this, even though it meant fully training an employee for limited gain on her part. The "opening shift" came as a fluke, when my boss mistakenly put out a flyer about changing the opening time about a month before she was really prepared for it.

So I volunteered to come in at 7 a.m. (30 minutes earlier than the previous opening time) and stay till 8 a couple days a week, when I would leave to drive the Roo-girl to school. That way, we both reasoned, I could get in my workout and make a few bucks. Since I was driving Z-man and J-bear to high school before 7 every morning anyway, it was no big deal.

Ultimately, it morphed into a six-day-a-week gig. Weekdays ended up being about an hour and half; Saturdays were four hours plus, including cleanup time.

I had my paycheck direct-deposited into a separate account that I never touched. And there it sat ... and grew.

It wasn't a ginormous amount. I made $8 an hour (which was, like, $12 a day for those weekdays, ya know?).

And I let Roo-girl know every step of the way that the Curves job was for her bat mitzvah. When the time came to plan the party, I spelled out the expenses. Some of those expenses were for the synagogue and non-negotiable. And some she got to choose.

This was not an unlimited budget, and I frequently told her things like: "If you pick the more expensive invitation, then there will be less for (whatever)."

In the end, we had about 50 or 60 people at a local rec center, with a kick-ass deejay (that's one place she and I opted to spend the bucks since the deejay will make or break the good time had by all).

She had a blast, even thought it wasn't the social event of the century. Even though we cut many corners. Even though we prevailed upon a party-planner friend, who gave us discount, and the photographer daughter of a Curves colleague, who ALSO gave us a discount.


All in all, the ceremony and the party together were an incredible experience that, although I had gone through it with my three boys before, was made sweeter by her dedication to her faith and her joy as she danced herself silly and her understanding of how this party came to be.

Whew. That went REALLY far afield from where I started. Ever had a post that wrote itself ... in a completely different direction than you intended?

Yeah, well, you just read one!


swampy said...

That is an awesome picture. One to use at her wedding, probably.
Thanks for the explanation. Well done.
My daughter and her new husband listed a Menorah on their wedding gift registry. (We are not Jewish.) I purchased it for them and they followed the rules exactly for lighting it during the holiday.
Why, you ask? They are just trying to learn and understand about the different religions of the world and Judaism was their first choice. It was a wonderful experince for them and made me happy I chose that for their wedding gift.

AnGlOpHiLe FoOtBaLl FaNaTiC said...

I love the Roo cutting a groove. I went to one Bar Mitzvah, and it was a little over the top, so I'm glad Roo's wasn't insane that way. I haven't known too many Jewish people growing up, but round here these parts, I compare the mitzvahs to a Quincenera, which is quite similar...although creepishly like a wedding.


Well done explaining that....the picture of Roo girl dancing it up, definitely amazing..brought a smile to my're doing good Mom!

Simply Jenn said...

That is a great pic of Roo! She probably understands finances a million times better than my own offspring.

nikki said...

Great picture! Thank you for the explanation. It makes more sense to me now. Catholics have kind of the same party when a child has their First Communion.

~JJ! said...

I always wondered why it was 13?

What an uncomfortable age!!!!

She's gorgeous.

Jenni said...

Thank you so much for the explanation. I just love learning about these things. It sounds like such a beautiful and meaningful ceremony. And why not have a party to celebrate such an important moment? (Okay, well, not being the partying type, I would have done the same as Z-man, but Roo *is* like my Na:o))

That is a fantastic picture of Roo, too! I love how it's been edited to put the folks in the background in black and white and keep her in color. It really puts her in the spotlight. Your friend really caught her at just the right moment, too.

And, well, cr@p! You linked me and I haven't blogged regularly in forever. I feel like I should go and write something right now. (But I probably really should not be on the computer at all.) For the record, most of my posts write themselves and go in a completely different direction than I intended. So do my comments. It's scary.

Secret Agent Mama said...

I love that pic of her dancing. Great, great shot. I'd love to be invited to one of these someday.

Kathryn said...

What a great picture! And way to summarize a very complex topic!
I think the Bat Mitzvah sounds like Confirmation in my Catholic faith. The becoming an adult in the church, and all. Although sadly, I did not get a massive party. :( But I did get cash! :)

Robinella said...

Great explanation and photo. Loved it!

Canadian flake said...

The pic is fantastic..and thanks for the explanation. As for the post taking it's own path, that happens to me all the time.

I start writing and then think "where did that come from??"


Mr Lady said...

I loved your weekly winners, but that one on the top, of your daughter, is BEAUTIFUL.

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