Thursday, January 12, 2012

We had an alt mitzvah here last month.

Our alternative, very different and personal event recognizing my son's foray into age 13 and beyond grew organically. Initially influenced by a group of friends we have met with for the last few years that also negotiate a double cultural heritage. They have become a spiritual family of sorts, really proving that it takes many hands to make light work.

This spiritual process of making meaning is hard work.

It is much easier to SHARE prayer, candles, eating, feeding and wrangling of children when you are practicing rituals that you didn't grow up with. One thing that has become crystal clear is that although we all come to the process with this half-Jewish and half-Christian heritage, each of our paths are different and distinctive. And that is part of what I love about this group and my own family.

I come from a family that is large and extended and blended in so many ways and it is from that intricacy of input that I have learned that it is what we bring to the common that creates our life as art. I love how my family celebrates our mainstream holiday. It is with our own particular take on food, wine and family. And it is the thing that is different and particularly ours that is most meaningful to me and what I hope we are passing on to our children.

I wanted this event to illustrate my son's difference, to show what is personal, what is distinctive, how life, coming of age, and alt mitzvahs are art projects.

And if there was any doubt that we were headed in the right direction, it was put to rest when we sorted photos to make the slideshow I have pasted below. You will see in the resulting retrospective what is distinctive and special about my son's interests and how they kept coming back to this moment, his care of creatures of all sorts. You will see photos of movement and dance and performance and art and performance art. Which culminate in a few pictures of food.

My son has been feeding us what seems like forever: pancakes, baking, serving homeless men at St. Stephen's Shelter, and lately combining his knack for beauty and interest in things Japanese with Bento box lunches.

Some of the food related photos involve a recent class project where he made homemade root beer. He had corked the mixture in empty wine bottles and was to take one to school to share with his class. In my husband's instructional and helpful way, he got out a wine bottle and said you will need to know how to open one of these. But this is a boy who has grown up in a bottle-opening household. Needless to say, it was more of an education for hubby than it was of son.

So with the pictures I have tried to locate my son someplace in particular, to say this is where you are, this is what we see, and there is so much more to come. Thanks to all everyone who has called on him with new responsibilities. Those of you that have taught him things in your woodshop, had him stirring an enormous pot in your driveway, raking leaves, building a sukkah, and most of all calling on him to watch your children and teach your children to dance. I am incredibly grateful to those of you that he will call on when he needs. Most of all I am grateful for him and what he's shown me.

We have been learning from him for a long long time. We have these photos from a trip to the Canadian Rockies and whenever any of the adults held the camera we looked UP at the enormous mountains with their snowfields and rock faces. But when my son took the pictures he captured the teeming ferns and flowers that grew around the running melt from the snow. The pictures he took were incredible, these tiny views that we all had just stepped over and moved on. I can't wait to see all the other perspectives he will school me on.


 Thanks, young man, for showing me those things and thank you for every other thing you have yet to teach me. I promise that I will be open and willing to learn. I am excited to learn.