13-Year-Olds Patrick and Curtis: Not Quite a Bar Mitzvah

Not Quite a Bar Mitzvah

Grandsons Patrick and Curtis, born 7 weeks apart in Chicago, both turned thirteen this fall. If they were Jewish, they would each have observed the bar mitzvah ritual: Bar = son; Mitzvah = law or commandment, able to participate in all areas of Jewish community life. Such a rite of passage usually culminates in a party with gifts.

Neither of our grand-boys wore yarmulkes. Nor did tefellin dangle from their heads or arms. Although these grand-boys have memorized Bible passages, during their birthday celebrations they did not wear religious headgear or black leather boxes (tefellin) on their fore-heads or near their hearts containing sacred scripts from the Old Testament.


What They Did Do:

After they turned thirteen, they read letters their Grandma and Grandpa Beaman had written to them when they were newborns and sent in the mail to their parents’ address with a postmark. These letters have been kept squirreled away until a special day.

At his party, Curtis opened a letter his NaNa had written to him with a December 31, 2003 postmark.



The letter was typewritten, so he breezed through sentences, smiling as he read in his emerging bass voice.

But he struggled to read another letter, which I had dashed off in cursive handwriting, now a dying art, and no longer taught in public schools.


Then he opened his gifts: a wireless mouse for his hand-constructed computer, and The DaVinci Code book.



Then it was Patrick’s turn:

Grandpa Beaman wrote Patrick’s letter with a similar postmark. It was typewritten, so there was no struggle to de-cipher looped letters. Before Patrick read his letter, Grandpa showed him a photo colláge he made for Patrick when he was a few months old.

Patrick and Grandpa, with matching lopsided grins, check out a photo collage
Patrick and Grandpa, with matching lopsided grins, check out a photo collage

An excerpt from Grandpa’s letter revealed his observations of newborn development:

When we feed you, you suck that bottle down pretty quickly. When it come time to burp, we hear it loud and clear! And then there’s often a big milk shoot-out which sometimes lands on my unprotected shirt and a big white splat a few feet down on the rug.


You are also making lots of cooing and other sounds. During the last couple of days when I made sounds, you tried your best to twist your mouth around in odd shapes to mimic some of my sounds. You REALLY want to talk. And someday you will for sure.


Patrick’s reading of the letter ended with these words:

He did not open a wrapped present. His birthday request was a gift certificate to Five Guys, a burger place in Jacksonville. Why such a present? Simple: His love for food is in his DNA – a “gift” from his grandpa.

It remains to be seen whether the boys, later as men, consider these “parchments” sacred, letters written to them as infants.

Bar Mitzvah – or not, we wish them Mazel Tov . . . congratulations and good wishes to both as they continue to develop into manhood!

And finally, our hope for them from The Shamá . . .

Deuteronomy 6:5  And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.


Cousins Patrick (3 months) and Curtis (1 month)
Cousins Patrick, 3 months and Curtis, 1 month


What can you add to my description of the Jewish ritual, the Bar Mitzvah (Bat Mitzvah for daughters)?

What other rituals or traditions does your family observe with children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews?



45 thoughts on “13-Year-Olds Patrick and Curtis: Not Quite a Bar Mitzvah

  1. Fascinating post, Marian. What a lovely tradition you may have begun. As you know, I too saw my two grandchildren, cousins born two days apart, turn 13 this past fall. Illness kept me from visiting them in October, but I’m currently on my way (enjoying a stopover at Kathy’s en route). What is it about watching our legacy find their way in the world, watching them for those telltale signs they are really ours? It’s powerful, isn’t it

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lucky you – enjoying the thrills of seeing your grands again, born so close they must seem like siblings to each other. And seeing Kathy, too, double grand!

      I love your last line: ” . . . telltale signs that they are really ours. As I recall, I recognized some facial features that reminded me of you in your grandchildren. Maybe the smile.

      Congrats on being first responder today and beating out Merril, who usually claims this spot. 🙂 Left a comment on your thoughtful, well-researched post today . . .


  2. Good morning, Marian! Janet and Kathy beat me today. 🙂 What a lovely post! The cousins look like they could be brothers.
    We have had one birthday tradition of making silly birthday “crowns” from construction paper. When the girls were younger, we also had Valentine/Birthday parties for them (they were both born in February)–and for several years they and their guests wrote and drew on sheets we used as a tablecloth. I have the two sheets still, and I’m going to have to give each daughter one soon. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It interesting to see the different forms our creativity takes. It wells up from the imagination, sure, but focuses on the deep love we share with offspring.

      Yes, Janet and Kathy beat you out today. How did that happen! I believe they have a rendezvous today, so maybe each is getting an early start on the day. Thanks for commenting whenever. And thanks for the tweet. I sent one back to you with a photo I hope you don’t take offense to – ha!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this, Marian! These are gifts the boys will always treasure, I’m sure.
    It makes me sad to read Curtis struggled reading the cursive writing.I hate that it’s no longer taught in schools. How will they ever read our historical documents?
    Our family tradition is breaking out the photo albums after Christmas Eve services.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, my first thought about the lack of cursive writing is inability to write a “proper” signature, but that is no longer an issue. When we signed documents relating to real estate purchases, we “signed” then with an Ident-i-pen that mimicked a cursive font style. The historical documents you mention are indeed a valid concern.

      I love that you break out photo albums after your Christmas Eve ritual. Photos always bring on story telling. Nothing like the oral tradition to entertain. Thanks, Jill.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Marian, I loved listening to the voices of your two young men. They are fortunate to have you and Clif as grandparents and to have each other as cousins who must be almost-siblings.

    Once again, you and I have similar instincts. Slightly different versions. I started a journal for both children soon after they were born. I recorded their funny sayings, adventures, and misadventures. When Kate was born, I started her journal addressed to her 21-year-old self. I put a few entries in that journal every year and gave it to her at age 21. This coming year, when she and Nik move into their newly-renovated house, I will give her the box of memorabilia she and I saved from the “box in the basement” project.

    She and her brother also had “mitzvahs” at age 13. Our small group from church initiated the idea. We commissioned special boxes with “secret” compartments. We focused an entire evening on each child after their thirteenth birthdays, reviewing pictures of their childhood, telling stories, offering blessings. The idea was that they would keep the boxes on their dresser and use them for small items. They haven’t claimed them from our closet yet. But they surely have the good memories and will one day enact their own rituals with their own children.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope others will read your comment and adapt your ideas which take mine a step farther into your church family.

      Although I didn’t keep journals for the children, I did assemble photo albums that became theirs when we moved. Also, on my desktop is a compilation of quotations with dates from each. Some of their sayings at ages 4 and 5 would bring loud laughs if/when they would be read, say, at a rehearsal dinner party – or wedding reception.

      Also, I remember you had a series called the Nanny (Granny?) diaries, which you must have posted before I “knew” you online.

      The idea of ritual is one way to keep strong links in the family chain. Thanks for adding your share of how-to, Shirley!


  5. Good morning. What a wonderful post the boys are so big and beautiful. Very blessed to have you as grandparents. Grandchildren are such a great blessing. We do quinceañera s for the girls at fifteen, which is as grand as a wedding.

    Last year I had the privilege to do it for my granddaughter. My daughter’s never wanted one. It was so beautiful to see her in her beautiful dress, help her get dressed. when I picked her up from the beauty salon I just cried she looked so beautiful. The whole event was beautiful she was adorned from head to toe with great significant blessings, prayers, and challenges for her to do for God, family, church, and community. At the end of the day I asked her what was the best part of your day. She said hearing her mother’s voice and seeing her picture. I found a CD that my daughter had recorded for the kids naming them by their name and explaining the book she sent them. My Linda loved reading. I had my photographer dub a sentence for Imani at the end of the video she said “hi Imani it me mommy I love you ok sweetie”. Everyone was in tears. My pastor thanked me for giving him a heads up of the video because he would not have recovered. Precious moments.

    We did a special dinner for Nikko on his sixteenth birthday where Pablo and I wrote out our love and blessing over him now that he was going to be driving we gave him over to God. Our pastor also had a letter for him so did everyone at party they prayed a blessing over him. His friends were at awe they never seen that. They told Nikko wow your family loves you. Great moments and memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am SO happy to hear you have the recording of Linda’s voice. And what a neat idea: to dub in that extra meaningful sentence. Your family has such close ties because of your cultural traditions, I think, which others can adapt to their own families. You make a big deal of various milestone and although the celebrations can be expensive, they are worth it in memory-making. I admire you for that!

      Thank you for sharing the memories of Imani, Nikko, Pablo – and dear Linda – so precious!


  6. I guess this would be ok to send to parents for 3 year olds, even though I didn’t quite jump on it when they were babies. 🙂 I did keep journals also for our daughters, which they are enjoying in new ways, now that they have little ones. I’m curious as to where did your idea for the letters for grandchildren came from?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not at all surprised you kept journals for your daughters, writer/journalist that you are, Melodie. Honestly, I don’t remember where I got the idea for letters to the grandchildren. My memory retrieval system is rather faulty these days (Ha!) and it was 13 years ago. (Sigh!)

      Yes, it would be a great idea for family members to write letters from their observations of 3-year-olds. At age 13 and older reading about young antics would seem a novelty to them.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. My daughter gave me books especially for grandparents to write down their own memories. I began these years ago, writing in cursive. Now I’m thinking that my younger grandchildren will not be able to read this! It is remarkable, the changes that come about in a lifetime!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Elfrieda, we have observed so many changes, especially in the last two decades of our lives. Never would I have believed that cursive penmanship would become obsolete. But now we live in the digital age and are swept along on this current regardless of our wishes otherwise.

      How wonderful to have a “grandparent” book. Maybe you can continue in print – or, help those grands learn cursive. Calligraphy books may be a good source if the children are so inclined. My son, an art teacher, has taught cursive as an art form; I guess he needs to give lessons to his own son, Curtis seen in the photo struggling with my handwriting – ha! Thank you always for adding to our conversation here!


  8. Congratulations to both grandsons on reaching their milestone: you must be very proud. I guess they must have been thrilled with their letters and mementoes from their grandparents; a really lovely gesture.
    In the Catholic religion, children around 7 or 8 years old do their First Communion, for which girls dress as brides and boys as something resembling Navy officers. They have a party and give little cards to their guests with the name of the child concerned and the date of the First Communion as a keepsake. They also receive presents from all the guests and they have an official photo taken, which is usually framed as a memento of the day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These rituals like First Communion honor the young person and also let them know that they fill a meaningful niche in our family. All of this, I think, stands them in good stead when the trials of life come and they can think, “I’m a branch on this sturdy family tree.”

      Thanks, Fatima!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Again, congratulations on the birth of Belle, Jill’s grandchild, and your GREAT-grandchild. We beat us to it, Jerry. Thanks for commenting here too. As you can see, comments from men are rather scarce. A double thanks! Do give Susan a hug from me.


  9. Marian — Oh how fun listening to Patrick and Curtis read letters from their grandparents; letters that had been written over a decade ago and tucked away for this special occasion. Thank you, as always, for sharing from your family’s heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Those letters are very special as are your grandsons! Two teenagers in the family at the same time. It will be interesting to watch them grow up.I have a grandson who would most appreciate a gift certificate to a restaurant as well. That grandson is now 21 and he treated me to an all you can eat sushi and Thai restaurant during my recent visit. My other grandson is 14. They are both wonderful!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe you are sending you greetings and comments from Spain now, a huge change in climate from your homeland in Canada where you’ve been recently. I love Thai food, but I probably wouldn’t select sushi on the menu. How nice you have a grandson old enough to pick up the check: That will be the day – ha!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. What a lovely thing Grandma and Grandpa Beaman did, writing and mailing the letters when the boys were babies! I loved this post, Marian, reading your words, hearing the boys read, feeling the years of love unfold. Wishing you and your family Christmas blessings and joy.
    I leave tomorrow to be with my mother as she struggles with pneumonia and adjusts to hospice care, so I might not be posting for awhile.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting here, as I know you are doing so with a heavy heart. I understand completely your need to walk away from posting for a while.

      May you feel God’s comfort as you walk “through the valley of the shadow . . . ” as I have done with my own mother and will do very soon again with another loved one. Prayers too for safe travels!


  12. So beautiful, Marian. You bring me to tears again. Such fortunate boys and such fortunate loving grandparents. I remember one men’s ritual for a group of young men in our community including my sons. Dads, adult male friends, and uncles built a huge fire outside near one of the lakes. I saw a photo of the fire, but have no idea what happened after that. It was a secret the men kept to themselves, but knowing the participants, there must have been spiritual readings from various traditions, lots of hugs, and some good jokes.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Your story sparked an idea when it’s Ian’s turn: a fire ritual of some sort. Ian is probably the most sensitive and spiritually a-tuned grandchild (at this point). Fire symbolic of spirit . . . Ian’s spirit ablaze. Now you got me brainstorming. Thank you! His ritual may take place around a fire pit. Stay tuned.

    And thank you, Elaine!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am honored that you say this, Luci!. One reason MennoMedia probably picked you up as an author is the warmth the editors detected in your family’s closeness both shared activities and in your community’s living arrangements. Thank you for stopping by to read and comment here: Merry Christmas!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. What adorable, handsome young men you have as grandsons . I am not born to a religious family but I am always fascinated by other people’s religions.
    My sister has made a very special friend since living in South Wales and she is Jewish . My sister is amazed at the wonderful traditions of the faith . So lovely , thank you for taking me into the Beaman’s beautiful world 😘
    🍒 Cherryx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad you enjoy our family stories. We find our faith to be stabilizing in this world that seems to have gone completely wack-o!

      Thanks for reading and commenting each week. I enjoy each one and the cute emoticons (memes?) you choose. Hugs, Cherry!


  15. Oh, this is so special! So adorable and yet historic and unprecedented (in our family). I wish we’d thought of writing (typing even better, as you say) a letter to each of our grandkids. Well, you may have just have inspired me to write a letter to each grandchild (6 of ’em) – they’re now ages 4-8, but I could write letters for their 18th b.d. or something? We have no religious b.d. celebration, sad to say. I think those kinds of traditions are beautiful. And your two grandsons do look like brothers – love the lobsided grins.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just read your “blue-toothy” post and left a comment with a wee question for you.

      Thank you for reading and adding your thoughts to our conversation. There are so many way to do the letter “thing” with your grands. I’d be curious about the creative way you adapt this idea, Pam!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I know about rigmaroles: We have faced them with property sales this year and my sister has to buck the medical system with my aunt who lives in a facility that provides her nursing care. We are familiar with “Pass the buck” – “Need more bucks please,” as if we had a choice. Oh, vey!

          Liked by 1 person

  16. Beautiful sentiment Marian, writing those letters when the boys were born. I love how your linked their 13th birthdays to Judaism and the Bar Mitzvah. I think the boys will look at the letters in another 20 years and realize more just how sacred they are. As for the cursive, it is disheartening to even think that cursive isn’t being taught, something technology has stolen from today’s and future youth. There is nothing more personal than a hand-written letter. Period. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The boys have been brought up in the Judeo-Christian tradition, so the Bar Mitzvah seemed a natural theme here. I have quite a few writer friends who have Jewish blood. Right! Even though they do not practice the religion, they enjoy the rituals like Hanukkah.

      Yes, I believe in hand-written notes. In addition to the message, there is the sometimes the scent of the giver and (when you think about it) traces of the DNA left behind. Thanks, Debby. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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