bar mitzvah

Found this in the “Draft” box from last fall. Didn’t realize how long I’d been on writing vacation.

 

In two very short weeks Little Pit will attend his first Bar Mitzvah celebration at a restaurant in D.C., without us. Friends, I am grateful for this–glad that he will experience something he would otherwise not have in a small town in Texas, glad to have a night out to go sit someplace and eat food someone else cooked and stare at my husband for a couple of hours, glad we can hop on the Metro just around the corner from our house and make it all happen, just glad all around. You know what’s next, right? A BIG GIANT “BUT!” On the invitation it states that there will be dinner and dancing. Dancing, perhaps, with girls. Oh no!

Why on earth would this kerfuffle me? My boy is a sweetheart. We are raising him to respect himself and respect women. There will be parents there. We want him to go be with his friends and have fun–it’s an absolute must for healthy development and healthy humans in general. So who cares?

It’s the lightning fast really slow process of me moving to the sidelines as he grows up, where I won’t be his best girl anymore. If we’re doing our part well, theoretically, we’ll gain a daughter at some point, but if I screw this up I might gain a reluctant & unpleasant Thanksgiving dinner guest who shows up every single year! And brings stuffing from a box! Or a pie that requires defrosting! What if he never calls? What if he is unhappy? Not just ordinary unhappy, but bone-deep unhappy? What if all the faith, love, creative energy, and wonder that David and I have poured into being Junior’s parents doesn’t work? So much of this is boiling just below the surface of everything these days that it doesn’t take much for it to bubble over.

I think people love babies so much because really, all you have to do is keep them alive and reasonably clean. I strapped MP into the baby carrier and stuck a diaper in my back pocket and kept moving. I was significantly more tired and much crankier when Matt was a baby, but now is the hard part (I know I’m skipping a giant swath of early childhood–also not easy and notable for the mind-numbing repetitive reading of Good Night, Fucking Moon). It’s where all the rote skills and rules, and “rules” we’ve taught him meet his developing humanity. Walking the line between teaching, modeling, commanding, and requiring he figure it out for himself is no small thing. We try to stay close to the “figure it out yourself+questions+feedback” model but that’s much easier said than done.

He described himself recently as “the happiest kid in the 7th grade.” It made me cry a little. How did this come about? Is it us? Is it his wiring? How do we NOT MESS THIS UP (because this is the fear we hold very lightly in our hands)? And, as an aside, what the hell? What kind of freak likes 7th grade? I am finding that parenting a pre-teen presents many more questions than parenting books and web-sites have answers (although Brave Parenting by Pozatek is pretty helpful).

So, back to the Bar Mitzvah. The blazer, dress pants, dress shirt, and new tie have all arrived, been tried on, ironed, and are hanging in the closet. Prayers are scattered to the Universe that they still fit for another friend’s spring Bar Mitzvah. His enormous feet fit into his dad’s dress shoes, so we got off cheap on that account. The present and card are ready to go, reminders about table manners have been randomly shouted at weird times, and we’ve practiced how to dance at a nice party, just in case.

When we googled “bar mitzvah” all the definitions we found came down to one thing–the time when a young person becomes accountable. As he gets closer to thirteen we see more flashes of the man our son is becoming. Rather than holding him accountable ourselves, increasingly we bear witness to him standing up and saying “This is me, and this is my deal,” as he holds himself accountable for the good things and the not so much things. It is humbling. It’s a reminder that we’ve got bigger fish to fry than new ties and dancing with ladies.

Shalom, and I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Update:

He came home from the first bar mitzvah asking if we could please be Jewish instead of lapsed Episcopalians. He was sincerely disappointed at our explanation of how it works (or doesn’t).

The second bar mitzvah was notable for the extreme length of the service and he stopped asking about becoming Jewish. The blazer and pants still fit. Thankfully, small pants are still in style, because MP’s were questionable.

Both times he commented admiringly on how well his friends handled themselves during the service, and how long beforehand they had to prepare. And there was lots of food. Bless those parents for feeding a horde of twelve and thirteen year old boys!

 

Wrinkles (from early October)

I can’t say the house is silent. The hum of the fan and the chorus of cicadas keeps it from being so. But it is very quiet. Up at 4AM–coffee, bacon, eggs scrambled with vegetables, and sprouted grain toast have made the house smell like Saturday morning much earlier than usual. David is on a motorcycle ride to West Virginia, and I am headed to a professional women’s workshop day in the opposite direction a little later. I’ve had some kind of ick that’s been going around, and made an attempt to corral tissue boxes and nasal sprays, to rinse tea cups and dry the kettle before heading back to bed with coffee and laptop.

Today is a wrinkle in the new normal. It is rare that the weekend is not some combination of fun outings, brief errands/chores, and dinner or brunch at least once with friends. Together. Attached at the hip. We are so constantly together I feel sometimes that I am close to understanding what it means to be on suicide watch, with me the one being watched, as if I might stuff a couple of changes of underwear and my camera in a satchel and make a run for it back south. And I might.

Last night Hanson’s Disease (leprosy) was the topic of conversation while out with friends and it was all I could do to not tell the entire story of my experiences living in and taking road trips through Louisiana, including Carville, location of a former leper colony and now the Hanson’s Disease Museum. I could feel nighttime in St. Francisville on my skin and smell the Mississippi even in the clean-swept plaza of brick and astro turf (no lie–the town center has a patch of astro turf). If someone had put an Abita in my hand at that moment I would have wept. There are many more moments where I feel myself cutting through the coolness of the Guadalupe in the late afternoon in August, or navigating never-forgotten short cuts through the oldest parts of San Antonio.

Every time I tell someone how much I love it here in the Frozen North it feels hollow–without the fullness of a history, minus a thick catalog of smells and feels. Of course I love it here–the schools are amazing, I can walk across the street and get on a train to anywhere I want to go, and there are four distinct seasons. Yesterday I posted a comment on Facebook about feeling like I was on an overly-long vacation, and realized as soon as I hit “Post” that I had not provided a context for that, nor could I, really, because that context is still fleshing out.

I know in my rational mind that I will get up one morning and it will seem as if I’ve always been here. That the dream quality my life in Texas is developing will be hazier, the loss of friends and distance of family less acute, and that this life will not be a wrinkle in what is, it will be what is. I’ve started doing things like getting my car washed and taking my clothes to the cleaners–ordinary things not required for survival, to help things along. Anything to feel at home again.

 

 

 

The Business Card :)

So, Friends, there is this thing here in the Capital of the Free World (and environs) called “Networking.” It’s not necessarily for finding a new job or getting something published/produced/filmed/manufactured–it seems to be more of a sport. Like most of the puffy-clouded jack-assery that goes on around here, not one thing might happen, except your LinkedIn requests will potentially spike and you might get a little drunk on free well drinks. Since I’ve stumbled into a 9th row seat to witness the 21st century version of the Fall of Rome, when my neighbor-friend invited me to one of these events I said, “Love to!”

Then I didn’t go. Apparently, you have to have business cards.

Hm.

Commence analysis paralysis. I’ve spent a year-plus out of education, but most of my experience is in education. I’m not actively looking for a new job, but I’m open to opportunities. What do I put on this card?

Suzan Pitman–Girl Wonder

Suzan Pitman–All That & a Bag of Chips

Suzan Pitman–Sort of Funny, Kinda Nice

I was advised to stick with the basics, so 100 very basic business cards are being printed even as we chat so that I can go with my friend next time. I did come up with something I think is totally genius–on the back they have “It was nice meeting you!” then below that “We met at:” so I can quickly write in where I met the person with whom I’m exchanging business cards so there’s a better chance of being remembered a week later when they clean out their wallet/purse.

Now that the cards are taken care of I have to come up with something called “an elevator speech.” It was described to me as something I might say about myself to someone who makes eye-contact with me on a 15 second elevator ride. Dear God! I don’t have enough internal filters to shut that particular monologue down. Weeks later I am still randomly having Tourette’s-ish outbursts of snorty giggles at all the things I could say to someone about myself in 15 seconds, and then, in a mind-numbing 180, freaking myself out because I’m not sure I can fill 15 seconds with anything notable or worth sharing. “I knit a little?” “I make an amazing frittata?” “I like to ride my bike?” “Sometimes I do volunteer work?” “I used to teach but now I don’t?” “I spend my days in a basement?” This level of summarization has thrown me. I guess I need a professional 6 Word Memoir.

What this boils down to is how do I present my best, most polished self without losing myself? Not everyone finds ex-pat Texans charming around here (you should hear the ration of shit I take about Rick Perry). I haven’t been here long enough to know the Code, not sure if I even want to know the Code, and I do not have a string of credentials behind my name. I have absolutely nothing to hide behind (except, possibly, a couple of rum-and-cokes). It’s just me and me. And, last thing–by D.C. standards I AM OLD! That’s right–O.L.D.

All that said, me and my plain-Jane business cards are going to saddle up in the next few weeks and git ‘er done. I will meet 32 year olds who were out saving the planet at the same age I was when I ran off to Mexico with David Pitman and fixed coffee for former governors at a book store coffee shop for 6 bucks an hour. They might have 3 creds behind their name, but I have a nice clean space behind mine for drawing smiley faces, which is how I’ve decided to think about it.

Thanks for listening!