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Sunday, January 22, 2006

The incomplete place-setting

I've mentioned in past posts how my kids seem to be rushing headlong towards adulthood without my fully noticing it.  But this weekend I looked around and it is as though someone hit the fast-forward button on our lives!

You see, this weekend marked Ariella's 12th Birthday, which according to Jewish Law is the date on which she officially becomes an adult, and is therefore responsible for her own conduct.  This isn't to say our job is finished... not by a long shot.  But from here on in, her good deeds are recorded on her 'account', as are her mis-steps.

Nearly every week she has been attending the Bat Mitzvah parties of her classmates and friends, and has been excitedly talking with us about what she's seen and what she'd like for her own Bat Mitzvah party (which will be in late March when the extended family comes in from abroad).  But we wanted to let her know on as many levels as possible that her party will be just that... but that her coming of age is right now... and has nothing to do with halls, bands, caterers and decorations.

On Friday evening Zahava and I sat Ariella down and told her a story about Zahava's great aunt Raizel.  We told Ariella about how this strong, beautiful, independent woman had been born during extremely difficult times, and how she had sailed in steerage from Belarus to the US as a child with nothing but what she could carry. 

We told her how Raizel had tragically lost a husband early in life and how she had gone on to make a life-long commitment to care for her younger brother whose already-tender mind had been permanently shattered by shock and guilt after watching the emaciated Auschwitz inmates he had helped liberate writhing on the ground in their death throes from the sweets and rich rations he had innocently handed them.

Great aunt Raizel had been the first in the family to take Zahava on 'grown-up' outings in Boston... to sit along the Charles and watch the Swan Boats... to go shopping in the nicest shops... and to show Zahava how to take tea like a lady.  Ariella was told all this and more about this wonderful woman she would never meet.   And then Ariella received a string of perfect pearls with rich gold accents with which Aunt Raizel had marked one of Zahava's 'coming of age' milestones.

Along with the messages of continuity and love, we also wanted Ariella to feel the joy of receiving gifts given with 'warm hands'.  You see, many of Zahava's finer pieces of Jewelry were, sadly, given with 'cold hands'... not for lack of love... but simply for lack of time, when her mother passed away at 53 of Ovarian Cancer. 

Ariella doesn't remember Zahava's mother, but we have pictures of her being held by this courageous woman... a woman who tenaciously clung to life months beyond even the most wildly optimistic predictions of her doctors, simply so she could feel the reality of her first grandchild in her arms. 

Two weeks after Ariella was born, Zahava's mother felt she could finally let go and went on to discover that secret that is eventually revealed to us all.

I'm sure that as Ariella continues (G-d willing) to mark important occasions in her life, Zahava and I will continue to pass along heirlooms that the owners would much rather have given in person.  And each time this happens, she will learn about the value beyond rubies of each of the original owners... and how we see the very best of these people in both her beauty and her demeanor.

One of the things for which Ariella and her brother Gilad are responsible each week is setting the Shabbat table.  They take turns with this task and each knows the proper way to fold a cloth napkin, lay out the polished silverware, arrange the china and place the crystal.  They both also know to check how many adults will be dining so they can set the correct number of wine and/or cordial glasses.

As Ariella was putting the final touches on the silver and making sure that the settings were just so, I snuck up behind her, gave her a kiss and whispered in her ear that she'd forgotten something.  She quickly glanced around the glimmering table at the accents of azure, gold and silver, and asked me what she'd forgotten.

As the heavenly smells of roasted chicken, challah and other Shabbat treats tantalized our senses, I leaned in again and moved aside her new string of pearls so I could nibble on that delicious spot on the back of her neck (the spot I have loved since the day in 1994 when I carried her out of the maternity ward) and whispered, "You forgot to set a wine glass for yourself".

220_20

Posted by David Bogner on January 22, 2006 | Permalink

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absolutely beautiful. this is the first blogpost ever to bring me to tears. i often think about the heirlooms i will hand down to my own daughters in due time and it is my hope that i can express myself to them as touchingly as you have to your ariella.
mazal tov on ariella's bat mitzva -- she is a lucky girl indeed.

Posted by: nikki | Jan 22, 2006 1:22:53 PM

This post, all by itself, would make a precious Bat Mitzvah gift, one that could be taken out and read 20, 30, 40 years from now and bring a tear to the eyes of Ariella's children.

Posted by: Elisson | Jan 22, 2006 1:36:35 PM

That blew me away...When is your book being published...I want an autographed copy...one of your best posts ever.

Posted by: Jewish Blogmeister | Jan 22, 2006 5:05:32 PM

Wow! That is so beautiful! Mazel Tov!

Posted by: Shevy | Jan 22, 2006 5:34:17 PM

what a beautiful post. it's always refreshing to see emphasis given to the true meaning of bat-mitzvah. parties are fun, but are more meaningful when backed up by substance.

Posted by: rachel | Jan 22, 2006 6:07:40 PM

what a beautiful post. it's always refreshing to see emphasis given to the true meaning of bat-mitzvah. parties are fun, but are more meaningful when backed up by substance.

Posted by: rachel | Jan 22, 2006 6:08:16 PM

A post like that should come with a warning lable.

Amazing and mind blowing: traumatic, sweet, and complex.

Wow.

Posted by: Shifra | Jan 22, 2006 6:13:20 PM

Did you recently buy stock in Kleenex?

Posted by: westbankmama | Jan 22, 2006 6:33:16 PM

Oh, my. I'm a bit teary after reading that. How lucky your kids are to have such wonderful parents...Can't really say anymore right now, still taken aback by the beauty of that lovely post...

Posted by: lori | Jan 22, 2006 6:35:31 PM

Mazal tov to all of you! Wonderful post.

Posted by: wanderer | Jan 22, 2006 6:36:10 PM

Mazal tov!

Posted by: Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) | Jan 22, 2006 6:50:08 PM

I'm crying too. Beautiful post.

One of the things that has comforted me very much since the recent death of my grandmother has been looking at the jewlery she gave me BEFORE she died. She very wisely parcelled out her jewlery to those she loved herself, saying she wanted the pleasure of seeing us wear it. I have her wedding ring on a chain I wear around my neck, and it makes me happy to remember how she herself took it off her finger and gave it to me to keep for her.

Posted by: Sarah | Jan 22, 2006 6:53:23 PM

I agree with all.....this was absolutely BEAUTIFUL to read, and sparked some tears in me as well!

Mazal Tov to Ariella!!! And to the rest of the family as well!

Enjoying your blog....
~S.

Posted by: EmahS | Jan 22, 2006 8:53:14 PM

Nice story. It is quite a milestone. I like how you teach Ariella more about herself and her past on this occassion. Some Mennonites have a similar thing on the 12th birthday which is sometimes embarrassing, sometimes acknowledging of the person they have become and are becoming in their immediate community. Parents and children alike have the opportunity to laugh at themselves, at their shortcomings and remember the important points that have molded them and kept them close and defined their character. There is a story about riding a bicycle with God and at some point taking your hands off of the handlebars. To me, Bat Mitzvah is a little like that between parent and child, only in this case, it is the child that starts to choose their own direction.

Posted by: sirbarrett | Jan 22, 2006 9:29:20 PM

Beautiful.

Posted by: Jack | Jan 22, 2006 9:31:18 PM

This was truly one of the most beautiful, moving posts I've read. Mazel Tov!

Posted by: zemirah | Jan 22, 2006 11:50:41 PM

Truthfully, I didn't understand the point of bat mitzvah until this post. Thank you! What a great way of making one's coming of age a meaningful event.

Posted by: Irina | Jan 22, 2006 11:59:30 PM

Going for that GOLD Best Post Award for next year ey? I think it's in the bag.

From what soil grows such love?

Posted by: Scott | Jan 23, 2006 12:19:27 AM

Mazel Tov to Ari and to David, your words, as always, beautifully describe the situation. :: wiping tears away ::::

Posted by: val | Jan 23, 2006 12:20:11 AM

Awesome post.

Posted by: Alice | Jan 23, 2006 12:52:25 AM

Geez, Trep, warn us when you're going to write a 2-kleenex box post! Seriously, though, that was beautiful - Mazal Tov, and Ariella is the luckiest child to have beautiful parents such as you and Zahava.

Posted by: Ezer Knegdo | Jan 23, 2006 1:26:33 AM

I don't know what more I can add... it was a beautiful and touching post. G-d has truly blessed you and your family. Mazal Tov!

Posted by: Regina Clare Jane | Jan 23, 2006 3:38:49 AM

Mazel Tov to the beautiful young woman :)

Posted by: Shayna | Jan 23, 2006 4:27:05 AM

David,

Warm & wonderful.

Mazel tov to Ariella and to the entire family.

Posted by: Pearl | Jan 23, 2006 4:53:16 AM

your blog is really amazing, so is your writing. Each post i read - well, all i can say is that your kids are really lucky!!

Posted by: tara | Jan 23, 2006 5:10:21 AM

This was simply beautiful.

I loved hearing about Aunt Raizel. That was my grandmother's name, for whom my eldest daughter is named.

How sad I was to learn that Zahava lost her beloved mother too soon.

Posted by: Stacey | Jan 23, 2006 6:51:04 AM

Mazal Tov to Ariella! She'll be a great adult, cuz she's got great parents!

Posted by: sarahb | Jan 23, 2006 7:12:24 AM

Mazal tov, David! That was a beautiful post.

Posted by: Rahel | Jan 23, 2006 1:47:28 PM

Your posts should have Kleenex warnings! This is one of your most beautiful posts. You and Zahava are wonderful parents raising terrific kids. Mazel Tov to your family on Ariella's Bat Mitzvah. My grandmother, too, has started giving out her jewelry and says she would rather see us enjoying it now, while she is still alive, Kayn Ayin Harah.

Posted by: Essie | Jan 23, 2006 5:47:24 PM

Mazel Tov to Ariella! Blessings to her on her 12th year!

Posted by: katieb | Jan 23, 2006 6:23:09 PM

Mazel Tov Ariella,
and to her parents!

Posted by: lisa | Jan 23, 2006 7:23:42 PM

One of my favorite posts of yours - and that is saying a lot! Sweet, beautiful and touching...my youngest sister just turned 12, and my grandmother, Raizel, passed away recently, so there is some extra resonance in your words for me. You exquisitely capture the mixed emotions of a parent as their child transitions into a new phase. I love the idea of handing something down from an ancestor along with a story about them with each milestone reached. A wonderful minhag to bring meaning to family history and continuity - I would like to emulate this one day with kids of my own.

Mazal Tov on Ariella's bat mitzvah. May she and the rest of the Bogner kids continue to bring you much joy always...sounds like she lucked out in the parent department too...

Thank you for this post!

Posted by: mcaryeh | Jan 23, 2006 8:56:09 PM

Geez, it's dusty in here today... got something in my eye...

Posted by: ralphie | Jan 23, 2006 10:35:40 PM

I totally choked up reading this beautiful piece. Your love for your daughter is so palpable. I hope she realizes how very lucky she is.

(p.s. Did Raizel's brother ever recover from that terrible experience?)

Posted by: Ayelet | Jan 24, 2006 3:39:08 AM

Hi, i just wanted to wish you guys a huge MAZAL TOV! i can't believe ariella is 12 already.
and another MAZAL TOV from my whole family!

Posted by: Rivkah Nemoy | Jan 24, 2006 4:41:48 PM

A very moving post for a very special occasion. Mazel Tov.

Posted by: Schvigger | Jan 25, 2006 11:57:33 PM

What a beautiful post! Mazel Tov to you and your whole family...and hello from a lurker who finally decided to step out of the woodwork and comment.

Posted by: Girl Story | Jan 26, 2006 12:34:34 AM

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