Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Family Thing

I have hesitated to journal this particular weekend, because there's a part of me that feels like this story isn't mine to tell.  I mean, OK, sure, I'm here, I've been a part of it, I can always journal my own experiences.  But this weekend belongs to someone else.

I'm in Florida, at a family thing.  Specifically, my cousin's kid's Bat Mitzvah.  I've got a lot of cousins (um... fifteen), and, among them, they've got ... let's just say a bunch of kids.  I'm pretty sure my parents didn't go to all of their cousins' kids' Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.  And, in all honesty, I haven't really dug the cousins' kids' Bat Mitzvahs which I have attended.  This because I am a grown up, and a party where adults try to have decent conversation over the dulcet tones of 30 or so teenyboppers dancing around to ear-splittling music doesn't really appeal.

(Yeah, yeah, "get off my lawn.")

I came to this particular cousin's kid's Bat Mitzvah for two reasons.  The first is because the last time this side of my family got together, it was to bury my grandmother.  And while the fact that all ten of the grandkids on that side of family managed to make their way to Florida for the funeral was quite a tribute to my grandmother -- the truth of the matter is that it brought home to me, pretty damn clearly, that the guest of honor at the funeral doesn't really care that you're there; what really matters is that you should get together to celebrate to good things in life, while you can enjoy them together.  And the second reason I came to this Bat Mitzvah is because my cousin's kid has Down Syndrome, and you don't go showing up to a bunch of your cousins' kids' Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and then blow off the one for the special needs kid.

At least, I don't.  Your mileage may vary on that.  And wiser -- or, at least, more politic -- minds than mine have rather obviously pointed out that everyone has to make the call for him- or herself.

And, sure, I can say (with quite a bit of honesty) that I don't really know this kid very well.  But, when I look into my heart, I don't really know any of my cousins' kids particularly well.  But I do know my cousins, and I love and care for them.  And if my cousin (and my cousin-in-law) are going to throw a big party for their daughter -- especially when it's a party that the kid worked so hard for (so much harder than most kids), and especially when the kid wants nothing more from me than some kisses and hugs, well, I'm there.

My cousin's kid proudly and excitedly made her way through a few key lines of Hebrew, and the service turned out to be cool in a kind of unexpected way.  I mean, the whole idea of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah is that (by saying those key lines), the kid becomes accepted as an adult in the Jewish community.  (I remember at my own Bat Mitzvah I was pretty psyched at the concept that someone was going to have to treat me as a grown-up.)  Here, I can't really say what was going through my cousin's kid's head.  But what I did see was a congregation and one family's extended family and friends absolutely, unconditionally accepting a kid who is probably going to come up against a lot of rejection in her life.  And that was a very good thing.

So maybe she's not an adult.  Maybe, by some measures, she'll never be.  Maybe her achievements will be fewer and farther between ... and harder fought.  And maybe that's all the more reason to celebrate when she reaches a milestone.

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