6 minute read

You see it coming 18,000 miles away. Not to worry.

Twelve-year birthday; pick a Saturday. Text and Email family. Excitement brewing.

Nine months away. The study with the Rabbi begins. Start slow. Summarize the Torah portion. Tallit blessing is a one-liner. The morning prayers accumulate week-by-week.

Six months away and save-the-dates are delivered throughout the country. Reasons to talk to too-long neglected friends and family. Oh I hope they will come. This will be so much fun. When is the last time the family got together for a happy occasion?

Three months to go. Booked the venue months ago; Buy the invitations; Send the invitations. The acceptance replies come in and warm our hearts. Who did we forget? Pick up the pace…you are not even at your Torah portion yet. We have much to do. Order the suits. Find a DJ. What should we serve? Are you still practicing your Hebrew? Time to go to your lesson…grab your things.

Two months to go and things are getting real. Putting a day countdown on my phone homescreen. Torah portion Aliyah #2 is underway…two to go after this…we are doing it. Pick the menu, pick the DJ, pick the hotel. Did you want shuttles? Did you want dancers? What are you doing for photos? Would you like a videographer? Keep practicing your torah portion. Send the caterer deposit. Do we all have clothes for the event? No I don’t know what color table cloths I want.

One month to go. Torah portions are DONE so enter Haftarah. Why are all these words so different from what we are used to…and no chanting to help the flow? Going to the tailor to fit your suits is a right of passage for young boys. Centerpieces need to be created. Did anyone order the wine and beer? Are we getting dancers? Who is on the montage? The tailor messed up the suit shirts…they will fix the shirt sleeve lengths. Don’t worry, there is still time. Are we doing a candle lighting? What songs does Sam like? No we can’t do the Russian national anthem. His Spotify playlist is not appropriate.

One week to go. The fixed shirts are not fixed. Meg was right about this tailor. I can’t find a shirt that will arrive on time. There is one size 10 left at Macy’s; this will have to do. The Rabbi wants more additions to your speech, can you make those additions? I don’t know what he wants. He said what he wants. I don’t want that. Do your haftarah again; it needs work. I am done today. That last rehearsal was tough. There is still time. We need the candle lighting speeches and montage ASAP. We are on it, but not today. By the way, we need 7 challahs for Friday and Saturday. Two more rehearsals. Make those changes to your speech. I am hyperventilating. Calm down. It is almost over. It is about to start.

24 hours of madness. Family are in town. Practice the speeches. Ut-oh, writing these words were easier than saying them out loud. Why is the meaning too emotional for me to get through it? I’ll try again later. Pick up the challahs and the cake. This store only has 2; wtf. Write and practice the party introductions. Pick up the kids early from school. Is Sam getting sick? This isn’t good. He barely slept last night. Get dressed for dinner. There are 25 people here getting hyped for the big event. Hurry up people, we can’t be late to our sevice. The red suit shines through. Sam takes his Hebrew name and slyly tempts the audience to tune in tomorrow for the full story. The sore throat is of second importance. I am the man tonight. Ventilation is good, just hyper. Go home and sleep. Did we print enough services…our toner says it is low. Try to sleep.

The morning of, time starts to slow. I have to remind myself to not rush just to sit in our suits waiting. The screens distract them as I load the car and check my list. We head to Temple with plenty of time on the clock. With more than 30 minutes to prepare, we meet with the early arrivals as the Rabbi regails us with stories of V’shamru spinning-ritual origin story. My brother brings my long-lost Tallit which makes the day all that much more special. He takes pictures of the family on the Bimah. He doesn’t have to clue us to smile as they won’t leave our faces. Time marches to T-minus-zero as the seats fill with all those familiar faces we were hoping to see six months ago. We get our pep-talk and follow the Rabbi to the podium. The packed-house quiets to “Shabbat Shalom.”

I was both so nervous for Sam and proud of him. “Please let him start out alright. Please let him remember the Hebrew words and their melody.” His small head peeks over the podium and adjusts the mic lower. He is doing it. He did the one-liner. The morning prayers pass by line-by-line with each response. He remembered them all with the correct chanting. I think his confidence is building. I think my confidence is building. Sam’s grandmother does a reading about how our child is not our masterpiece. But why does it seem like he is our masterpiece…he is performing masterfully. He doesn’t seem worried anymore. If it weren’t for the hard parts coming up, he might be enjoying this.

We passed the Torah down three generations. The aunts and uncles watched Sam read from the Torah followed by the Tucker grandparents. Based on our rehearsals, there is something amazing about seeing that young hand move the Yod over the sacred parchment covered with hand-written Hebrew calligraphy. The same fingers that spend most of the day swiping and clicking now track over some of the oldest texts and language still around. The chanting is melodic, high-pitched, and quick due to the speedy small vocal cords of the singer. He glides through the four Aliyahs; the last being his own.

As the Torah is dressed, the biggest hurdle lies ahead. That elusive Haftarah reading that was the bain of the last few weeks of study. It reads like a sailboat beating into the wind where each word is another wave to be breached. Sam heads up wind and tacks back and forth with full effort until he reaches his destination. The wind turns, and is now behind him for the after reading chant. The last word is followed with a sigh so deep, the back doors in the room blew open.

If the haftarah was Sam’s vexation, the parent’s remarks were mine. The hanky was ready as I started the easy part. I tried to go slow, one sentence at a time. A pause here and there to catch myself. A little nose wipe and sniffle. Could they see how choked up I was? I was going to get through the words I wrote no matter what. I finished. They applauded…they didn’t know. Meg was perfectly poised as always.

The adoration and praise wouldn’t stop. Sam had an audience and performed like a maestro. The typically quiet and stoic Matt cried words of wisdom that moved the crowd. The selfless mother Meg wove together the history of this mixed-religion but deeply faith-seeking families. Rejoice.

The coats came off at the reception. Sam’s friends lifting lightweight Sam up like a hero. The Hora-circle was so big it snaked around the entire room. Sam was lifted in the chair.

The joy and happiness radiated as people came out of their dwellings to gather in celebration of life.

The circle continues.

Morning Afternoon
image of me holding the torah scrolls{caption=Holding the Scrolls} image of me in the chair{caption=In the Chair}