Back to blogging…had to take a pause as eldest son became a man. Thank goodness it only took a few weeks.
We celebrated my son’s Bar Mitzvah. In Judaism this is a symbolic day that marks his journey into becoming a man; a spiritual rite of passage sort of thing. Aside from the very meaningful service one needs to plan, there’s the party that follows. I remember my Bat Mitzvah party – hundreds of purple, pink and silver balloons lining the ceiling of the country club and insisting the band only play disco. I also completely remember my service and the part my dad played in getting me ready for it. He acted as tutor and three months before the big date, we sat every night after dinner discussing and dissecting the portion of the Torah I was to read in Hebrew – what it meant to me, and the relevance to the world around me. This was an enormous task added to a 13 year old already going through a hormonal explosion, but a task that bonded us as well, and gave us an undeniably special time together.
Husband had never been to a Bar Mitzvah service before and had absolutely no clue what to expect from eldest son or the day at large. This had been a strange detail to appreciate as so much of who I am is represented by this reference. I, therefore, had to take on the planning of this experience by myself, praying to God (mind the pun) that I was ticking every box appropriately. I had an insane sixth sense connection to my dad right from the moment my son turned 13, and it has stayed with me ever since. Even though we chose a venue on the beach and my dad was allergic to the sun, I felt his approval. Really felt it, straight inside the heart region. I chose a Rabbi who knew my family and father well and who was quite unorthodox which was the right fit for our family; a very unconventional venue for the service and a conservative Cantor that would hopefully bring it on home with a familiar etiquette and proper ease. The result was a coming together of all aspects of Family Hamm – even non-Jewish Husband – as what matters most in these religious occasions is the authentic understanding of God, peace, community and love. Good stuff. It was indeed a magical moment in time, with dolphins in the distance…literally.
As for the party…I decided not to get a party planner, not that I ever really entertained it (gosh these puns are coming out fast), and found myself knee deep in a thousand details. It’s such a funny moment when you realize, “Crap, I hope all these decisions, fashion choices, colors, visualizations, vendors, music, actually work!” Son was becoming a man whilst mom had more and more gray hairs appearing on her head. I did hire my incredibly efficient nanny to be my PA on the night. Note to others: excellent idea. Prep someone else with everything, have them take the final meeting at the site to meet everyone, and then defer all major irritations and stresses and desires to kill the manager to them on the night; the expected unexpected could ruin the whole thing.
Family came from England, friends from all around. The hardest part of the planning was the actual day arriving and trying to stay in the moment of it all. The service and party were at Gladstone’s on the beach in Malibu. Heaven on Earth…if it doesn’t rain. My obsession with the weather has never been sane but adding it to an outside venue that is also using the beach as a service location, took my obsession to new heights. I literally was emailing guests weather updates until the day before. There was rain in the forecast, albeit a small chance, and sure enough we awoke that morning to cumulonimbus (fifth grade science) clouds looming overhead. I’ll add here that second son woke us in the middle of the night with a screaming hot ear infection. As a parent you know it’s almost a guarantee that someone is going to get ill the night before a huge event. My eyes the next morning were sooo puffy from lack of sleep I seriously looked like an Asian version of myself. My mom told me to put Preparation H (yes, the hemorrhoid cream) on them, and yes, it worked. My gorgeous niece did my make-up and slowly, slowly I started feeling glamorous.
I checked the hourly weather update that promised the return of blue-ish skies and after a terrible start to the day, the sun started threatening its appearance. We arrived at Gladstone’s early enough to not panic – Husband really trying at this point to be supportive as I was now mumbling incoherent words to myself – and as the moments started unfolding, I fell into a stupor of bewilderment; this day was really happening, my son was really standing in front of a congregation leading us through a service with confidence and expertise and looking like a rock star doing it. All the generations of our family were represented, from England and the US, and there was a coming together of our two backgrounds as well. Is it possible to have a universal religion? Hamm became a very Jewish word that day.
The emotional side of a Bar Mitzvah is humongous. Meaning, it’s a day that connects one’s heritage – past and present – and ties in all the spirituality your family embraces with a soulful clarity. We gave speeches, we sang, we danced, we ate, we partied big time. And with a bit of sand in our feet by the end, we all left that bit closer, having shared something real.
PS…my new man in my life threw up the moment we got home. Sometimes becoming an adult is tougher than it looks.