December 8, 2011
Mothers, Fathers, Memories & Bar Mitzvahs
When my doctor told me I was pregnant, I fainted. I was 29 years old and my lifelong dream was to be a mother, so when it was confirmed, after years of trying, it was too much joy to handle I simply fainted. It was a wonderful day and the love I felt for my child at that exact moment has been with me ever since.
Months later, when my doctor told me I was going to have a son, I could feel my heart swell. It was a day that is engraved into my memory and I have visited that moment many, many times over the past 16 years. With each breath that I take, I love my son more. He is perfection to me and I am in awe of him.
Once I knew for sure it was a boy, I went shopping and bought my son a Tallit for his Bar Mitzvah. For the next 13 plus years, I kept his Tallit in my closet and would take it out often. It may sound silly, but I would share all my dreams and fears with the Tallit. It became the keeper of my prayers. I would write things down on paper, then fold them up and place them in the pouch that stored the Tallit. When my son crawled for the first time, then walked, talked, ran, and told me he loved me, I wrote it all down and tucked it away with my most treasured material thing, the Tallit.
It is a simple, elegant, beautiful shawl. I did not know anything about my child when I bought it, but it spoke to me and now when he wears it, it is as if it was made special for him. Even though it is now a little too small, my child cherishes it and will give it his own child one day. About a week before the Bar Mitzvah, I took out the Tallit and held it tight. For the first time in 13 years I opened every piece of paper and read each one. It took me about 4 hours because it’s hard to read when you are crying. It was a stroll through my life as a mother, and also a great lesson.
As a single mom there were times that were so hard I don’t know how I made it through. I was reminded of my struggles and triumphs. The papers allowed me to see what a great mother I had become and that I had raised a remarkable and wonderful human being. It was a blessing. When I was done, I took all the papers and burned them in a trashcan. The Tallit was no longer going to hold my dreams and prayers, and would begin holding those of my son. I put all the ashes in a bag, when I returned to Montreal to visit my family, I sprinkled them on the grave of my father.
My dad was not alive to see my son become a Bar Mitzvah, but he knew how hard I worked to get to that place, and so putting my dreams and prayers with him felt like coming full circle. I miss my father every single day and to share that day with him in this way mattered to me. I miss my father so much today that it aches. I had a rough day and all I wanted to do was call him and be comforted by his voice. He was a really lovely man and his support of me was endless and sustained me as a single mother, trying to raise a boy with Jewish values, far from my family.
I read an article here at JewishJournal.com by David Suissa, that made me cry. It’s been such an emotional day that the story mattered to me more than perhaps it would have on another day. Mr. Suissa wrote about a program called REMEMBER US and I recommend you read it. ETo read about Adam Unger and Daniel Pyser was very moving. A Bar Mitzvah is not only important from a religious perspective, but as a parent it is an emotional gift to experience this rite of passage with our young children, who were once our babies, and will carry our faith forward.
I feel the importance of faith today. I have a frame in my home that holds two pictures, one of my son and one of my father on the day each of them were called to the Bimah to become a Bar Mitzvah, which is more than a tradition. It speaks to who we are as Jews, parents, and a people. My father lives on through my son. My son will take all my prayers with him throughout his life, as I take those of my father. I will forever remember the story of Adam, have respect for Daniel, be proud of my son, and love my father for teaching me to keep the faith.