Sunday, January 10, 2010

Eight months and eleven days: Josh K. crosses over

It is a new day: eight months and eleven days until Bar Mitzvah. What has changed? We're on the other side of Josh K.'s Bar Mitzvah, the benchmark by which we will measure our own event.

We are invested in this manner for two major reasons. First, Josh K. is the Jawa's best friend. After playing a minor role in the first eight Bar and Bat Mitzvot (!) of the season, the Jawa finally got to sit in the sidekick chair. Good thing, since we, the parents, were also invited. It would have been a drag to watch my poor child shunned by his peers.

This time, he was one of four -- a B'Nai Mitzvot "Dream Team" called up to assist with the blessing over the bread. He got to sit at the head table, a position of honor. For a week, at least, he avoided the shame of the geek table.

Not that I think he cares, either way, but we've covered that already. I wonder, though, if he feels confident enough to hop up on stage, joining the DJ, Emcee and "motivators" for a little hip-hop styling, at other events.

The other reason we took this one so seriously is that Josh K's parents are also friends of ours. His mother, The Hammer, compares favorably to our own Sandra Bullock in fields of organization and control. With their Bar Mitzvah coming eight months and twelve days before ours, we got to watch and learn from them.

More than that, yesterday's rite of passage made it all real for us. We could imagine ourselves in that position, finally. I quietly took mental notes when Josh K's dad, The not-at-all-comfortable-in-a-crowd Wine Guy, forced himself to deliver a short message of welcome and thanks before dinner service began.

We also learned that the reason you invite people you've never met but who know your parents is so your parents will have someone to talk to. That way you don't have to spend the entire night walking around introducing people to your parents.

Once again, I was reminded that only one member of a partnership needs to be a good sport. As long as Sandra Bullock (and her occasional dance partner, the Jawa) was cutting it up on the dance floor, I was free to hang back and talk to all of the other bad sports. Nobody seemed to mind, but that may have been because I had donned a small disco ball necklace and a blue lei, thus demonstrating that, although I may not be dancing AT THIS MOMENT, I am obviously an enthusiastic member of this party.

I'm looking forward to being a host at the Jawa's own Bar Mitzvah. So far, I know of Bar Mitzvot in two ways: as a guest and as a Bar Mitzvah boy himself. The latter was almost 32 years ago. I don't remember too much about it, if you want to know the truth.

My training was not nearly as extensive as my son's will be. For one, I never dragged my entire family to the temple at 9:15 on a Saturday morning for "Torah Study," forcing ourselves into the corner of a room jam-packed with very engaged senior citizens, including one rather stange lady who had with her a cardboard box, full of who knows what, which she pulled along behind her on a dolly.

I never made my father attend a retreat, either, while knowing the entire time that he would hate it so acutely, and be so ill-equipped to disguise his disgruntlement that he would publicly melt down, agressively pointing out to the rabbi that it was 10:30 and he thought we'd done quite enough, thank you.

No, my "training" consisted of three years of Hebrew School, which I attended sporadically, somehow wrangling excused absences during baseball season, and a cassette tape with my torah portion on it. Then I had a meeting with the rabbi, who helped me write my speech. I only remember that part because of the impact his completely illegible margin notes made on me. For some reason, one thing I remember best about my Bar Mitzvah was trying to decipher those scrawled notes.

As for the big day itself, I remember only fleeting images of the ceremony, followed by snippets of the party. I remember going swiming next door at the Phinney's house, then a bunch of us sitting around in my room in our bathing suits, listening to "Lets Get Small" (on cassette, of course), and completely forgetting about the one guy from temple I invited, Richard Colodny, until my mom came up to me and said, "Richard's leaving," and I said, "Richard who?"

Sorry about that, Richard.

The great thing about Josh K's Bar Mitzvah was that this kid, whose default status is usually to stay away from the spotlight, had this entire night, this entire celebration, all devoted to him. He was the one being hoisted up in the chair. He was the one standing on stage with the emcee and the motivators, trying in vain to look like he was enjoying mouthing the words to YMCA. He was the one accepting congrats from a 150 people, some of whom he'd just met, and he was the one who woke up this morning thousands of dollars richer. And what I know of this kid, I'm sure he'll spend it wisely.

Don't think we haven't already considered our Jawa's drunken sailer-ish spending habits. He's not touching that money. It's going directly into the college fund which, believe it or not, we started when he was 10 months old, having no idea at that time that we'd be spending about a quarter of a million dollars just to get him to college.

The night ended, as some nights are bound to, with me sitting in front of the television, eating string cheese and watching a movie -- in this case "Coal Miner's Daughter," which I will always watch, no matter when it is on. Even at midnight after a Bar Mitzvah. I haven't had the chance yet to discuss with the Jawa the impact of seeing his best friend leap over into manhood. I wonder if, when he gets to his big day, he'll be as psyched about having a pubescent moustache as Josh K. was.

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