Wednesday, April 13, 2016
What I hope people saw at Max's bar mitzvah
Although I did not take an exit poll as people left Max's bar mitzvah on Sunday, I have been wondering what people thought. Not about the ceremony (which was beautiful) or the party, because the food was great, the DJ was fun and the room looked cool with all the fire truck balloon centerpieces and big arch (I'll share photos when we get them from the photographer). I have been wondering what people thought about Max.
I know our close friends saw how far Max has come; I felt the pride being beamed at him in the sanctuary. There were also relatives and acquaintances there who have not seen Max in a very long time or who don't know him that well, and I hope they walked away from the day having seen some of these things:
I hope people saw the ability.
During the ceremony, Max sang the blessings and the song he made up in tune and with real feeling—the core of worship. He didn't do well in spite of his disability; he did well, period.
I hope people saw the confidence.
Did Max clearly articulate all the words in the songs and in his speech? Nope. He articulated them the best he could as he stood at the podium, at ease and in full command. At the end of each blessing or song, as people pumped their fists in the air and said "Woot! Woot!" instead of clapping (which Max finds too loud), he grinned the biggest grin. He knew he was killing it. As he sang about the mitzvah of making a peaceful home in his "Thank You God" song, he delivered the punchline—"I can clean my room, just kidding—ha ha ha!" with perfect comedic timing that had everyone laughing. And during the candle lighting ceremony, Max welcomed everyone who came up and lent them a hand like he'd been doing it his entire life.
I hope people saw that you can create your own traditions.
Max didn't read from the Torah, the standard for bar mitzvahs. Instead, we put together our own ceremony, with guidance from Orlee Krass at Matan and suggestions from our rabbi and the music teacher who worked with Max. It showed his appreciation of his heritage and his good intentions, and it was as meaningful as any bar mitzvah ceremony.
I hope people saw that Max's friendships aren't so different than others.
Max and his friends from school were out on the dance floor a lot, having a great time. Max pushed one around in her wheelchair. He and another girl he adores held hands and danced together. They played the MC's games. They laughed a lot. They enjoyed each other's company. Like any friends at any bar mitzvah.
I hope people saw that our family isn't so different than others.
Max teased Sabrina that he didn't want her in photos because: siblings. When I went up to sing a song with him during the ceremony and kept choking up, Sabrina and Dave were snickering because I'd started crying when the first guests arrived and basically hadn't stopped. During the party, we held hands and danced together. We stuffed our faces. We took silly photos at the photo booth. We lived and loved it up. Like any family at any bar mitzvah.