It feels like yesterday that they were toddlers. Cousins, three months apart. So cute. So funny. Every move they made, every word they uttered, warmed my heart and I kvelled. Especially when they learned to call me “Butzee!” My own individual Bubbe name!
Today they are grown young women who graduated temple religious school, a ceremony celebrating their 10 years of Jewish education, Jewish involvement in synagogue as students, Sunday School TAs, Jewish summer campers and counselors, their Jewish social activities in teen programs (one of them is president of the region), Jewish family holidays that they have expressed always means something to them.
I teared up with the prayers the rabbi asked for the parents to say to their children and then the children to say to their parents:
“As you leave our protected walls for the next phase of your life, may you be blessed on this journey.
May all the gifts hidden inside you find their way into the world.
May all your learning lead to wisdom and your efforts lead to success.
May G-d watch over you night and day, protect you from harm.
May all your prayers be answered.”
“You gave me my life.
You give me your wisdom, your guidance, your concern, your love.
You are my mentor, my protector, my moral compass, my comfort.
There are no words to express my gratitude for all the blessings you have given me.
Still, I tell you, thank you.”
And then, as is customary on Shabbat and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, the adult places hands on the child’s head and in this ceremony, the children also put their hands on their parent’s heads, and recited:
“May G-d Bless You and guard you.
May G-d’s light shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
May you feel G-d’s presence within you always and may you find peace. Amen.”
There was not a dry eye in the outdoor sanctuary. It was a coming-of-age ceremony just like a bar/bat mitzvah but with an entirely new set of lifestyles approaching for all involved. The children will no longer be under the roof of their parents, they are on their own to make daily decisions on their own. Though I don’t doubt the good decision making processes of either of my granddaughters—as evident during COVID lockdown—it scares the bajeebies out of me that they will be away! As it did when my kids went off on their own.
And my heart aches for my daughters as their daughters go off to find their place in the world. A home with an empty bedroom, an empty chair at the dinner table and that vacant seat in the car brings tears to my eyes, been there done that, and it’s not always easy. After my tears, though, I learned that one’s mindset has to be open for creativity to fill the gap and get used to the new way of life in all its glorious changes. And it is about mindset on how we handle the new normal. We have choices.
So I ask: Whose coming-of-age is it?
My granddaughters? My daughters? Me?
I believe, all of us. And we will be there for each other to fill the spaces the young ones so rightfully deserve to leave. My granddaughters have brought honor and joy to our family and we rejoice in their individual Jewishness that is certain to continue as part of their college life.
And as I have passed on to others who have ventured out into the world, my greatest wisdom is:
“Don’t do anything you don’t want to see on YouTube!”
PS…Much gratitude to the rabbis, teachers and counselors at Temple Isaiah for the outstanding education and mentoring my kids and grandkids have received over 35 years.