family, judiasm, bar mitzvah, bar mitzvah invitation

The Most Important Bar Mitzvah Gift

by • June 1, 2011 • Faith, Family Life, Verbal SnapshotsComments (0)

A picture of something you have not outgrown

My bar mitzvah invitation.

Beginning with my bar mitzvah and lasting until the end of my brother Hal’s two years later, there was a light coming from my mother. That is when she was at her most beautiful – not because of how she looked, of course she was always beautiful to me, but this was a time in her life when she truly felt beautiful.

It was a late Saturday afternoon in 1974. Dad was lying down on the couch, with Hal sitting on the other end of it and me on floor next to him. That is how we always sat, always. Dad just liked having us all close to him I now see. And for these wonderful couple of years, we really were closest to him in the aspect that he enjoyed periods of vitality that his health rarely afforded him – we were always close, but it was time in his life when he felt strong enough to fully receive it.

Mom came home from “That Paper Place,” in Sylvania with what we expected to be a toppling armful of invitation sample books but she produced but a single piece, and placed it in the center of the kitchen table. Mom looked a little nervous, she was taking a bit of a gamble here. I could tell she really wanted me to like it and she needn’t have worried about me; it had me at “shalom!”

Her earlier nervous expression simultaneously covered us both as we locked eyes with dread: Dad! He was a man with a very traditional esthetic and this invitation was anything but.

Hal helped him up and he came into the kitchen and stared down hard at the invitation, looked at me right in the eyes, which must have been like peering though a fun house mirror given the convexity of my glasses at the time, pointed to the boy’s face in the illustration and said “he has your eyes,” kissed me on the forehead and headed over to my mom.

My dad stood there as always, straight backed, his hands in his pockets, mom’s arms woven in between his arms and sides. She went in lips first and Dad leaned back too far for her to make contact– like he has started almost every kiss for the prior 14 years. “So you really like it?” holding up the invitation. This was very important to her.

He stood silent for a moment and in his low voice simply said with unequivocal honesty, “I love it because you love it.” {Way to go, Dad!}

Mom rested her forehead on his lips and he held her shoulders. After being touched so sweetly by the man whose breathe was like oxygen to her, I can still remember the sound of her tears hitting the invitation still in her hand, like the soft rain drops on a gentle stream in the first shower of spring.

It is only now I realize that what I was actually there to witness in that kitchen on that afternoon was the most ultimate bar mitzvah present of them all: how my parents felt about other was no longer a childhood presumption or an expected truth; I saw it, with my own eyes, those eyes on that tear stained invitation, I saw my parents in love.

Today, when I look at this invitation, that is what I see reflected back from that boy’s eyes and something I will never outgrow.

“All beginnings are difficult”
~The Midrash

—According to Rabbi Mendy Hecht, the Midrash could be considered a companion, study guide to the Torah and fills in many gaps left in the biblical narrative.

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