Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Community Building

This past weekend was our bat mitzvah weekend. A dinner on Friday night, the ceremony on Saturday morning at 9 followed by a mini-reception, a party at the country club that night, and a brunch the morning after. The bat mitzvah girl is the second daughter of one of Jeff's college friends. Because several of his college friends were flying in from the East Coast and Southern California, Jeff rsvp'ed yes to each one of the events.

Of course, come the day before the series of events and we are wondering why we had signed up for all of them. At the last minute, we even wondered if we could skip the bat mitzvah ceremony. We had attended the ceremony two years ago for their oldest daughter, and all I remember is the singing and the Torah reading -- that seemed to go on endlessly.

So I don't know if it was due to my hormones or what, but I found myself deeply moved by the ceremony this time. During the first few minutes of the ceremony, Taylor's grandparents stood on the podium with her. Looking her in the eyes, they each took turns to tell her how special she is, how much she means to them, and how much they love her. There was so much love in their faces, and they embraced her with such affection and warmth. After the grandparents, her parents did pretty much the same thing, doting all their attention on this 13 year-old. Followed by her siblings, her aunts and uncles, her friends, her parents' friends, and other relatives. All in front of a community of people there to celebrate this young woman's life.

It made me think we should all have a bat/bar mitzvah. No matter what age.

And it also made me think we should all live surrounded by a community of people who love and dote on us. It didn't seem to matter too much in my late 20s when I decided in a matter to days to move out to San Francisco where I knew no one. I figured I would make new friends. And if needed, I could fly home to see my parents in New York a few times a year. I thought of the freedom of starting anew, where no one knew my past and I could be my best self, as I envisioned it, without some reminder of the person I had been or was supposed to be. And I didn't have to be subject to my parents' constant nagging to get married when I hardly found it to be a matter of my sole effort.

For the past ten years or so, I've lived that life and have more or less savored it. There were a handful of days when I considered moving back to New York, but they were a small exception. Over time, I built up a network of great friends and found a sense of belonging -- to the extent you can in our culture when you haven't nurtured roots in a religious or ethnic grouping.

While Jeff and I have spent some time thinking about the kind of school we'd like to send our child or the type of neighborhood in which to raise him, I haven't spent much time thinking about building a community. I assumed it would be a natural by-product of the friends we have and continue to make along the way. But watching 13-year-old Taylor surrounded by her grandparents, aunts, and uncles, I envied her world. And wondered what I could do to entice my parents to move to the Bay Area.


  1. I completely understand what you mean about building a community. I do not live in the same state where I was raised and where my parents still live. I grew up VERY close to my granparents, spoiled horribly by them. A grandparent's love is a wonderful thing, and I feel sad when we say good bye to my parents after an extended visit. I often think about moving back to my home state so that my son will be near his grandparents, to have the extra layer of support/help, and also because my parents are getting older and it would be nice to be near to help them someday. But you do build a network with other families once you have a child. Some of the people we spend the most time with now are families we met through my son's daycare. It's easier socializing with other families who have kids the same age, so the kids can entertain each other. And we all serve as back-up if a parent has to work late or something.

  2. P.S. That last comment was mine. Sarah

  3. I'm going to be a part of your boy's community..just saying..

  4. Diane, thanks for sharing!

    Sarah -- good thing you identified yourself. At first, I wondered if I should be creeped out by that comment!