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.

lettercurtisnotopen

curtis2003letter

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.

curtiscursive

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

curtiscomputermouse

 

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?

 

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A Plate, a Parade, and a Song

First of all, there was no parade and no song.

But there was a plate. A plate of cupcakes. I can show you the plate, but the cupcakes are missing. Why? Because our grandchildren ate them all up. In fact the two older boys ate theirs up seconds after they landed on the plate. I missed the photo op completely.

PlateRemembrance

Last weekend the family gathered to celebrate the Fourth of July. Some months ago, I had read Laura Brennan’s suggestion about celebrating success of family members with a plate of accomplishment. I caught her enthusiasm and thought “What a great idea!” All four grand-kids had received recognition at school this past year, so it seemed sensible to combine a national holiday with a family celebration.

Laura says,

We have a fun and easy way to celebrate in our house: it’s called The Plate of Accomplishment. In going through my mom’s stuff, I found one lone, gorgeous dinner plate – shimmery,  just lovely. So when one of us has an accomplishment to celebrate, they get to eat dinner on that plate. It comes out with much fanfare (a mini-parade, actually) and a song: “It is the Plate of Accomplishment, it is the Great Great Plate of Accomplishment …

Our grand-kids’ accomplishments were not measured by degrees as adults might do. There was as much hoopla about a memo from a teacher dashed off in minutes as for a bound book in a school library.

And so it went in birth order. . .

We celebrated Patrick’s printed book “My Life as a Pencil”

PatrickBookContestHome

And Curtis’ recognition for academic achievement among 5th graders in the District

CuritisMedallion

Jenna’s gift for noticing trash on the playground and stopping to pick it up at recess

JennaGrade4JCD

JennaCharReportAnd Ian’s quality of charity and compassion

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Ian: Character trait of Charity & Compassion
Ian: Character trait of Charity & Compassion. He also received a senior yellow belt,  Tae Kwon Do

As long as the pixels and electrons hold together on this website, today’s post will be a family record for the Daltons and the Beamans for years to come. Just as importantly, I pass this celebration along as a template to commemorate all sorts of happy occasions among your own friends and family members, including nieces and nephews.

Back to the celebration: I don’t really think my grand-kids paid much attention when I read them the inscription on the back of the plate. They knew cupcakes were coming! Yet the Old Testament writer Zephaniah prophesied the power of praise . . .

Plate ReverseZechIn my Mennonite upbringing in the 1950s and 60s, honor given to a family member would probably be shyly appreciated but not expressed openly. Why? Because recognition of this sort smacked of pride, the worst sin of all. After my high school graduation with honors, my parents barely acknowledged all the recognition I received. During my Eastern Mennonite College graduation ceremony, not a word was spoken about my ranking in the class. Such practices were soon to change though. I was near the end of the Old Guard.

It is definitely not psychologically sound to overlook the accomplishments of the deserving and according to Zephaniah, it is certainly not biblical either.

*  *  *

As you read this post, did a name or two pop into mind, someone deserving of a plate of accomplishment?  It’s your turn to tell!

Coming next: Oh, Beautiful – Amber Grain & Grainy Amber

Two Boys: One Moment in Time

Recently Grandpa Cliff and NaNa Marian took the Beaman boys to the Odditorium (not a misspelling!) of Ripley’s Believe It or Not in St. Augustine Florida.

The Saturday excursion was billed as a Mystery Trip, so the boys didn’t know exactly where they were going, but they did know it would be fun. After a 40-minute drive south from Jacksonville, the Mystery Bus with windshield wipers chugging away pulled into the very last parking space at Ripley’s.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not is a franchise with various locations nation-wide, dealing in “bizarre events and items so strange and unusual, that readers might question the claims.” Some of the 20,000 photographs, 30,000 artifacts, and more than 100,000 cartoon panels in the collection are displayed here at The Oldest City location.

Some of the jaw-dropping oddities we saw:

  • Lord’s Prayer etched onto the head of a pin
  • This prayer also etched onto a grain of rice
  • Erector set parts made into the World’s Largest Ferris Wheel model
  • Arabian camel nose plugs
  • Replica of the Notre Dame Cathedral constructed with over 160,000 match sticks
  • Voodoo doll in an ancient basket
  • Mannequin of man weighing over a half ton

ErectorRipley

Camel Nose Plugs

 CLiffRipley
Model of Notre Dame Cathedral constructed of 160,000 match sticks
Model of Notre Dame Cathedral constructed of 160,000 match sticks
And this one took me back in time, Curtis and Ian looking at the Lord’s Prayer etched on a grain of rice through a microscope . . .
CurtIANripleys

Seeing the back of Curtis’ head (on left) reminded me of our son Joel’s image at a similar age. So I flashed back in time, and then I was struck piercingly into flash forward motion with the thought that grandson Curtis will be in middle school in the fall. With poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, I lament “O World! O Life! O TIme! (Where has all the time gone? Not long ago he was just entering first grade!)

A few weeks ago, Shirley Hershey Showalter, who publishes weekly Magical Memoir Moments, posed an engaging prompt for writers. In the March 3, 2015 edition she took her readers on a visit to the Wheel of Time. Looking at a photo of her grandson Owen staring out the window watching his mother leave for work, Showalter imagines what his thoughts might be. She remembered a similar moment years ago when her own son, perhaps wistfully, watched her leave the house for her job. Then she poses two questions for her readers:

When was the last time something pierced your heart?

Did it ignite the Wheel of Time in you?

Contemplating the second question as I gazed at Curtis and Ian, I realized a ping of joy along as three thoughts came to mind all at once: We are blessed to have them, their whole life is ahead of them, and as the photo seems to suggest, they are facing forward to meet the future . . .

Photographer Angela Strassheim, in a recent exhibition at Jacksonville’s Museum of Contemporary Art, specializes in framing the lives of her nieces and nephews as they pass through early stages of their lives. Her collection illustrates the precious, fleeting nature of childhood and adolescence. One photograph that caught my eye was the “Girl in Blue Dress” which depicts a pixie princess frozen in a childhood phase that evaporates all too quickly. This large photo of Strassheim’s niece with dimensions of 75 x 60 inches, probably foreshadows the young girl becoming a married woman, draped as she is now in a canopy over her bed that seems to mimic a bridal veil.

MOCA_Angela Strassheim_Girl Bride photo

Robert Ripley is right. Life is full of mystery and awe. Sometimes it’s un-unbelievable too!

Your thoughts are always welcome here. Do join the conversation . . .

At Home with Grandkids: Fun Stuff to Do

BAKE
It’s cold outside, maybe even Polar-vortex cold, and Saturdays with Grandma or Aunt or Mom will be spent indoors. One cold day three of our grandkids warmed up the house, at least the kitchen, with cupcake baking.

Gkids_2 kids_ top_chocolate +lowers_071008

Gkids_2 kids_bottom_chocolate+flowers_071008

Yes, it’s fun to help mix up the batter and lick the beaters, but the grandest thing is putting the plastic Gerbera daisy in the flower pot or scooping up the “chocolate” dirt. It’s okay that we get frosting all over our arms and face – Grandma doesn’t care, now does she?


TINKER and LINK

Downstairs the grand-kids find the ottoman/toy chest with classics like Lincoln Logs, just like sets from the 1960s but with added plastic gadgets. Tinkertoys – there is just no way to improve on Tinkertoys!

LincolnTinkerToys


STACK

Do you have a deck of jumbo cards? If so, you are in business. Patrick and Curtis both learned the meaning of the expression “house of cards” as they tried to stack playing cards on a shaky foundation. Incredibly they persisted even after a collapse or two. Bryan Berg, who holds the world record for a 75-story card tower, can rest easy. Still, both boys couldn’t enjoy the challenge more, as Patrick illustrates:

HappyPyramid6162_mod


FLICK

Their dad Cliff retooled this marble flick board from an old oaken desk in 1978 when Crista was 9 and Joel, 7. They both competed in “Flick the Marble,” trying to earn the higher number of points, best out of three! All four grandkids have since enjoyed the board. Even grand-nephew Noah and grand-niece Emily give it a whirl here.

EmilyNoah

GameBoard


WRITE with GRATITUDE

Back in February 2013, when “plain and fancy” launched, the theme of Grah-ti-Tood, announced my first blog post. The grandkids’ gratitude books were featured along with pictures Curtis and Ian had drawn. They are a year older now, and their thanksgiving continues. Sometimes reluctantly. But this time spontaneously, as conversation around the breakfast table last month moved around to things to be thankful for.

GratitudeCurtisIan

Curtis_Ian_Gratitude Book_102514

On October 25, 2014, Curtis is grateful for friends and thankful that the wars are not hurting me badly (Oh, my)! Ian says, “I am thankful that blueberry pancakes are the best!” Curtis’ illustrations are cartoon-like. Ian’s pancake is realistic with shading.

Each unique.


I am sure you thought of a game or activity to add to the assortment here. Suggestions, comments – it’s your turn!

Coming next: Moments of Discovery # 3: Two Butter Stories and an Autograph Book

Hallowe’en: the Village, Valdemort, and a Video

Ten years ago grandsons Patrick and Curtis were one-year-olds at Hallowe’en. In October 2004 they lived far away from us in Chicago. Fortunately, their parents captured snapshots of them in costume, Curtis a pumpkin and Patrick, Tigger, both in store-bought outfits, unlike my own get-ups, which were always homemade as shown in my Hallowe’en post last year.

Curtis as pumpkin_2004_1000

Patrick_Halloween Tigger_2004_1031

Last weekend, among the children dressed as Muggles, Dumbledores, or Valdemort, Patrick and Curtis  chose to attend the “Harry Potter” Sunday Symphony sans costume. Only Curtis wielded a wand, which caused a wee bit of trouble amidst the spider webs.

 PatCurtPotterSymphony

*  *  *

Students at Rheems Elementary School grades 1 – 8, though familiar with Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Ichabod Crane” and perhaps Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” could not have anticipated J. R. R. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series.

Though Rheems was no School for Hogwarts, our village school had its own version of The Sorcerer’s Stone and the Goblet of Fire in the Deathly Hallows of the school’s basement, made ghoulish by the upper grades who created scary events with “eye” grapes in bowls, ghostly recorded voices among the hay-bales, and an illuminated skeleton.

Students raided closets and attics to conjure up costumes for the Hallowe’en parade, the culmination of visits to the House of Horrors in the basement of the school. My Mennonite aunt, also my teacher Miss Longenecker, initiated much of the fanfare that marked all the holidays, both the sacred and the secular. Here she has recorded our annual Hallowe’en parade, including the stumbles and falls!

Quote of the week by Erma Bombeck:

A grandmother pretends she doesn’t know who you are on Halloween.

Your Hallowe’en memories — a scary tale? a memorable outfit? The conversation starts here.

Coming next: What’s for Dinner: Dried Beef Gravy and . . .

White Paper Bags Glowing with Light, a Favorite Thing

Traditional luminaria of the Christmas season have their origins in the culture of Spain. Impressed with the paper lanterns from the Chinese culture, Spanish merchants decided to make their own version when they returned home.

Killarney Shores, our community, has kept this tradition alive during the Christmas season with votive candles seated in 2 inches of sand all enveloped in white paper bags. We space them 3-4 feet apart ringing the curvy streets of Emerald Isle Circle, Leprechaun Court, St. Patrick Lane, and Killarney Drive in the neighborhood.

Recently, the candle-lighting event has become a family tradition too with grandchildren lending a hand in the preparations of bag filling and lighting the votives. Last year it was the Dalton duo, this year the Beaman boys.

ModPlacingBags

Grandboys Curtis and Ian, outfitted as shepherds, placing bags on the curb of the street.

White paper bag glowing from within
White paper bag glowing from within

All done, surveying the view.

LumStreetView

ColorfulSheps+NaNa

A little tipsy – both the boy and a bag!

Lighting dozens of candles is exhausting, we need a snack . . .

BoysLumSnackWhat favorite things do you do this season, maybe like us, repeating year after year.

Join the conversation. Inquiring minds want to know about yours!

Your comments welcome; I will always reply!

Woo-hoo, a chance to play with fire!
Woo-hoo, a chance to play with fire!

To view my entry to the My Gutsy Story Contest, click here. Voting takes place in January 2014.

Once Upon a Time: The Tale of a Snow Globe

Announcing the WINNER of Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World

And the Winner is (drum roll, please!) Carolyn Stoner! Thank you one and all for participating so heartily by commenting on my review of Shirley Showalter’s memoir BLUSH. Carolyn, you will receive your copy of Shirley’s memoir shortly.

*  *  *  *  *

Once upon a time there was a little boy named Curtis, who lived on Greenfern Lane in a very big city called Jacksonville. His Mommy Sarah and Daddy Joel invited his grandparents to feast on a wonderful meal with them one day.

While they were eating home-made spaghetti and telling stories around the table, his NaNa Marian told a new story, “The Tale of the Snow Globe.” Now when Curtis was new born, his Great Grandmother Longenecker came to visit him in the big city of Chicago. She wanted to see her new grandchild for the very first time. Of course, she had visited towns and villages and the cities of Lancaster and Harrisburg many times. She had even gone as far as Niagara Falls on her honeymoon. But she had never seen a big, big city with dozens of skyscrapers.

And then Great Grandma told how she went up, up, up many, many of stories onto the top of the Hancock building, where she could look out and see the Sears tower, the Amoco building and beyond. For a very long time, she stared and stared at the giant buildings and the miniature cars and buses below. Then she went to the gift shop and bought colorful souvenirs: tile coasters, postcards, and a beautiful snow globe with white flakes drifting down on the skyscrapers of Chicago she had seen. Her special souvenir was the snow globe, of course, which sat on a table by her telephone where she could see it day or night.

One day her special prize disappeared. She looked and looked, and had other people look with her, but the snow globe was nowhere to be found. Who could have taken it? Her cleaning lady? Visitors? Was there a break in she wasn’t aware of? The loss and the scary thoughts made Great Grandma very, very sad, NaNa Marian said.

At that very moment, Curtis said to his Daddy, “May I be excused?” After his Daddy said “Yes,” Curtis hurried into his bedroom and came back with his own Chicago snow globe, a larger version of his Great Grandma’s. “Here,” he said. “She can have this!”

“But, Curtis, you brought this down from Chicago to Jacksonville when you were only two. This is a special thing. Are you sure you don’t want to keep it?”

“Oh, I know, but I want Great Grandma to have it. It will make her feel better. You can take it to Pennsylvania in your suitcase the next time you visit her.” And that is exactly what happened.

Shock and Awe
Shock and Awe

And then tears  . . .

snowglobe3

Appreciation too

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Curtis: Look of Pride
Curtis: Look of Pride

And finally, a grateful Great-Grandmother!

MomSnowGlobe

Your comments welcome!  I always respond.