Monday, April 11, 2016

Max says it was the best bar mitzvah ever


My greatest hope for Max's bar mitzvah, which took place yesterday afternoon: I wanted him to have both a fun and meaningful time. 

I got my wish. Actually, I got more than my wish.  

Max owned the ceremony. We put it together ourselves, creating our own tradition. He sang his songs and prayers beautifully, accompanied on guitar by a music teacher with whom he's been practicing for eight months. He was especially gleeful about belting out "Thank You, God"—sung to the tune of Fire Truck—because he'd made up the words. ("I love the mitzvah of helping people, I want to be a fireman when I grow up!") The refrain of "Uri, Uri" had special meaning to me: "'Cause you've got the music in your soul, this world needs to hear your song...."

When Max made his speech, first he used the speech app on his iPad to pronounce each sentence and then he articulated the words. He noted that he is good at being Jewish and doing good; that he'd done a fire safety presentation at school for his mitzvah project; and that everyone should join him in eating sushi afterward. You've gotta love a bar mitzvah speech that mentions sushi.

Max had a gigantic smile on his face the entire time, and giggled when people pumped their fists and said "Woot! Woot!"—he requested no clapping. He had everyone in the sanctuary laughing and crying; there is a reason we had 70 packets of tissues handy (thank you, Kleenex).

I only lost it a few times. Mostly, I was beaming, thrilled by his delivery and confidence. Boy, was he in control. Max told one of his cousins "Shhh!" when he heard her talking, and directed Sabrina where to stand when she came up to sing a song with him. At the end, he gave the rabbi a hug. After stopping by a pew to give his teacher one, too, he booked out of there for his party. (We had the ceremony videotaped, I will share it once I get video.)

At the cocktail hour, Max hung out with friends. He downed a piña colada from the kids' bar, then requested another. He wasn't embarrassed when I ate my body weight in pigs in blankets. He corrected anyone who called him Max—since of course, his actual name is Fireman Max.

He made an ecstatic entrance into the party room wearing his Fireman Max hat as Firework played. He danced it up. Max had asked to not be raised high on the chair during the hora, but when the predesignated Max Lifting Committee got him up there, he asked to go higher. Then he asked to do it again. Then he wanted Dave to go up on a chair. Then me. Sabrina went up, too. Baby Ben: no.

Max welcomed special guests to light candles on his cake. He and the kiddie crowd played games with the DJ. He watched, in awe, the photo/video montage I'd made of his life, and kept watching it again and again as it looped on the video screens. He ate a giant slice of birthday cake. He got pics taken in the photo booth. He danced some more, including our mom/son duet to "Just The Way You Are."

And when it was over, he requested another bar mitzvah. "This year!" he told me, hopefully.

Umm....

I wasn't just proud of my boy, I was all-out wowed by him. It was a day to celebrate Max becoming a young man, but also a day to celebrate how far he has come.

I am too fried to say more, so for now, I'll just share the speech Dave and I made at the party. Max held the mic for us the entire time.

Ellen: My friend Wendy recently gave me a compliment; she said I always choose happiness and joy in life. Actually, that’s not completely true. Happiness was delivered to me and Dave, and his name is Max. From his first smile at two months old, Max has added cheer, exuberance and joy to our lives, and to basically everyone who comes into contact with him. To know him is to adore him.

Dave: Behind that smile is a whole lot of strength, determination and will. (Stubbornness, too, which explains why Max’s first word was “No!”) Max knows exactly what he wants, at all times. When we went on a joy trip last winter, Max chose the destination — Chicago. He watched videos on YouTube about Chicago and when we were there, it was him telling me how to get around.

Ellen: Max has shown us the way throughout his entire life. He has shown us what true perseverance is. He has shown us how to appreciate the inchstones, along with the milestones. He has shown us the many meanings of “ability.” He has shown us that it’s perfectly OK to be on your own timeline, proceeding at the pace that is right for you. He has shown us the beautiful range that is humanity. And, of course, he has shown us the way to the nearest fire station, wherever we go.

Dave: We’re so glad you’re here to celebrate Max’s bar mitzvah. You’ve come from places near and far including Tennessee, Missouri, Texas, Georgia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Maryland, Massachusetts and that truly exotic locale, Brooklyn, New York. So many of you have played a role in Max’s life, whether directly with him or enabling me and Ellen to be the best parents possible to him.

Ellen: My father, Zaydie, is here with us in spirit, and likely wondering how good the food is—he loved a good meal. He was impressed by Max’s progress, and he would have been so proud of him today. At the beginning of Max’s life, we only hoped this day would come; eventually, we knew it. “I can see the brightness in his eyes,” a doctor once told us. I know that today, you've seen it too.

And don't miss: Max's bar mitzvah, in photos

45 comments:

  1. Mazes Tov!!! So so happy for you and your whole family!

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  2. i'm bawling here in a coffee shop! your speech was so, so beautiful. amazing job, max! mazel tov!

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  3. I love the opening picturing of this blog post. The exuberance of the day is shown with those beaming smiles. So glad he was able to have so many happy guests and family attend.

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  4. What a great testament to your guy -- and to you and your family. So glad he had a good time. xj

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  5. Ellen....
    "It was a day to celebrate Max becoming a young man, but also a day to celebrate how far he has come." Yes, yes.... It was!! ;-D
    I love, love, love yours--and Dave's--joint speech!! ;)
    Congrats, Fireman Max, congrats!! I am so proud of you!! ;-D
    "Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive", Raelyn

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  6. Mazal tov! May he (and we all) continue to grow and bring joy to your family and community!

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  7. I'm crying in the library, Ellen. SO moved by your words. Thank you for sharing your family's joy!!

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  8. Beautiful. Just beautiful. Congratulations Max and family!

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  9. Replies
    1. Anna....
      That is a good question!! Now you have me wondering, too.... What was the song they sang? ;)
      "Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive", Raelyn

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    2. Anna and Raelyn, Max and Sabrina sang a liturgical poem called "Adon olam" ("Master of the universe") that typically ends a prayer service. The lyrics speak to God's greatness and all-empowering existence.

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  10. Sounds like a good description for anyone to have after a ceremony like this. Most typically developing kids wouldn't have had it any different, and certainly not any better. Also, excellent speech by Mom & Dad. Keep up the great work!

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  11. awww! Tears!!!! Love it. Thank you for sharing the amazing moment with your readers

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  12. Mazel Tov! I'm happy it worked out well for you, and especially for your son. When it came time for my child's big day, I was terrified of a pending meltdown, but all the time studying and practicing really paid off. Getting "in the zone" and turning everything else off is a useful skill.

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  13. Awesome! Just Awesome! I'm so happy for your family, looks like it was a remarkable day!

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  14. I've been thinking of you all and hoping things went well, and now I share your happiness! What a wonderful accomplishment for all of you.

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  15. Mazel Tov, to you and David! I'm so happy for you Ellen, not because of the Bar Mitzvah, but because you were able to create one that gave Max, sorry, Fireman Max, the exactly feeling every Jewish boy should have - that's he's an important part not only of humanity but in keeping the spirit of Judaism alive.

    Hugs!!

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  16. I'm so happy Fireman Max enjoyed his Bat Mitzvah.

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  17. Oh my gosh, so many happy tears. What a beautiful day for Max, for you, and your whole family!

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  18. Mazel Tov! It sounds beautiful and "just right" for Max and your family. I am so happy for all of you.

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  19. Mazel Tov! It sound like you all had a wonderful time

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  20. Mazel tov! It sounds like it was a wonderful day for all. So very happy for you.

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  21. This made me cry. I am so thrilled for your family, and for Max! I will be a true Facebook stalker until you post the video, the photos....EVERYTHING!

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  22. Mazel Tov Fireman Max, Ellen and all the family, friends and community.

    Seems like it was one big party!

    And of course Wendy is right about delivering happiness. And being a deliverer of happiness the way lots of figures in Judaism are.

    The brightness is here every day in every way. We see it in ceremonies and in dreams [like Joseph].

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  23. And here is a Mitzvah.

    Victoria's professional firefighters are fighting the good fight for pay conditions worthy of their profession. Remember the United Firefighters' Union and look at their advertisement - it was paid for and by them.

    There are some big campaigns in the next few weeks.

    [Of course the great majority of people in the Metropolitan and Country Fire Authorities are volunteers].

    Respect - honour - value your firefighters!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing this, Adelaide. I hope they get the pay they deserve.

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    2. Ellen,

      Glad you appreciated the United Firefighters Union.

      Pay - and conditions. The big campaign is against occupational health and safety neglect/oversights/insurance.

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  24. I thrilled for you, your wonderful family and especially Max. Mazel Tov! I'm so happy for you. xox

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  25. So happy for you Fireman Max. What a blessing you are to your family.

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  26. If only more people could find the gifts in children and celebrate their uniqueness. Please continue to write, to inspire others and to affirm how much people have to learn from Fireman Max. I assume Mazel Tov means something positive, so Mazel Tov it is.

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    1. Mazel tov means congratulations in Hebrew [literally good luck]. It is said very often as a toast or to show you are very proud of a person.

      One of the first transliterations I learnt, Mar.

      So glad you learnt so much. And you have much to teach about finding gifts and celebrating uniqueness.

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    2. Adelaide Dupont....
      I take it that you are Hebrew? Cool!! Are you Jewish, too, Friend? ;)
      "Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive", Raelyn

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    3. Raelyn and readers of Love that Max:

      I am not Hebrew.

      Many wonderful Jewish friends and literary and musical connections.

      Plus - Hebrew is the language of so many religious and political texts.

      In diasporas - you get to know everyone's tongue.

      If I were Hebrew it would have been Mazal tov and written in script.

      [Humanistic Judaism is so wonderful - thinking of Ari {Ne'eman} and Ruti {Regan} - she at the Jewish Theological Seminary and he doing many wonderful things -- read that through when looking up the significance of Bar Mitzvah].

      Connection with Hebrew/Judaism is a pop cultural one - Nancy Dawes in the Babysitter's Club was a really great character and friend to Karen Brewer. Read the Chanukah book - good stuff in PrintShop application about that celebration - graphics and text.

      ✡️😃😛🤗😄.

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    4. Adelaide Dupont....
      I sincerely hope that I did not offend you by wondering if you're Hebrew/Jewish, Friend. That wasn't my intent. You are simply well-educated in all things Hebrew/Jewish!! That is great!! We knew a family several years ago who were Hebrew/Jewish.... They are why I know a little bit about this faith!! So I guess we have that in common!! ;)
      "Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive", Raelyn

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  27. Mazel Tov, Fireman Max and family! I am confused by your mention of pigs in blankets though, I thought Jews didn't eat bacon, unless you are referring to something different?

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    1. Lauren, this is my best:

      Think of the "pig in the poke".

      They are usually very comfortable or very uncomfortable.

      And a pig in a blanket is usually very warm and often feels nurtured.

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    2. This made me smile! "Pigs in blankets" are the generic term for little cocktail franks wrapped in pastry puffs. It actually was a kosher event!

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    3. Ah, I understand about the cocktail franks and the things they are often called.

      Party puffs on the other hand!

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  28. This is perfect. it sounds like such a special day in so many ways xx

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  29. Thank you so much, everyone, for sharing in our family's celebration and joy. I got all emotional reading these comments!

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  30. Mazel Tov! Mazel Tov- a little late but still heartfelt. May he go from strength-to-strength his whole life.

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  31. I had no idea Max' middle name was one of my daughter's name(a girl named Grant suits her well).

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Thanks for sharing!



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