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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Two Mennonite Girls: a Cross Country Road Trip, continued

 

1964_Monkey postcard_Orderville UT

The postcard says Metzie and Molly if you look closely, but Joann and I were unofficially known as Mighty Metz and Sister Styx, the dashing duo that rode in the back seat of a Chevy Impala on a road trip with Joann’s parents, John and Mary Metzler.

Feeding a hooded squirrel at a stop off in Glacier National Park

Web_1964_Marian feeding squirrel_Close up

Our Southern route included the cotton fields of Alabama . . .

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. . . and Rock City, Georgia with a view of seven states

Web_Seven-States

 . . . and a tapering Falls

Web B_Marian-at-Falls

 

How I Paid for This Trip: I wrote an adult study series for Herald Press during May and June of 1964 for which I was paid $500.00. I brought cash and Traveler’s Cheques. Credit cards like the Diner’s Club Card were in circulation back then, but we didn’t have any. Actually, like many Mennonites, we thought credit cards were a little shady because of the possibility of misuse.

 

Frugality, Joann’s and Mine: 

  • Joann says to her mother in Canyonville, Oregon: “Mom, give me the map, let’s stop at some little hick place for dinner. Then I’ll have money to buy some more myrtle wood!”

 

  • In Oregon, I remark to Joan: “Boy, oh, boy, my future husband will have a wife who can keep on a budget, thank goodness!” Little did I know my future husband Cliff was living not so far away in California at the time.        

 1964_Marians Out West_Meals+Motels

Joan and I alternated weeks in paying room costs. I paid tolls and park entrance fees  instead of gas, which was probably less than 30 cents per gallon then.

I remember paying 50 cents to drive through a redwood tree!

 

We both kept diaries and photo logs. Mine looks battered and torn. Still, there’s a record.

1964_Marians Out West_Photo notebook

Church: We attended a service at the Mormon Tabernacle but the choir was missing, gone to the World’s Fair. Ugh . . . so disappointing!

Web_Mormon-Tabernacle

  • I was accosted by a Mormon guy in the tabernacle gift shop: He thought I was Israeli and mistook my black bonnet for a feminine yarmulke and tried to convert me to Mormonism.
  • We also visited Sweet Home Mennonite Church in Oregon with Rev. Orie Roth, pastor.

 

Sin: We drove by garish casinos and hotels down Main Street, Las Vegas. Among the glitter and glitz of sky-high, flashy neon lights, we noticed advertisements for $ 10.00 weddings. Do you think people got married drunk? we wondered.

 

Western Hospitality: On our way to Sequoia National Park we pulled off the road and discovered a friendly guy mowing his lawn. Thus we met the Shaefers. Mr. Schaefer showed Uncle John his orange grove, and Mrs. Schaefer loaded us up with a 12’ x 15’ box of peaches, oranges, two bags of grapes, 2 bags of oranges, and a quart of raisins she had picked/dried herself.

Web_John-and-orange

Thanks to the miracle of “General Delivery,” I got mail from home at planned intervals. Here’s a note from Aunt Ruthie with a cascading series of cartoons

PNG1966_0722_Birthday card and letter to Marian_from Ruthie_Cooke City_MT_3x3

And a birthday card from my sister Jean with a letter . . .

Web_1964_0720_Birthday-card-and-letter-to-Marian_from-Jean_Cooke-City_MT

. . .  and a note from Mother chiding Jean for not leaving any space to write: “I don’t know who she thinks she is . . . didn’t leave any space for Mother!”

Two letters sent to me addressed simply as Los Angeles – General Delivery came back with a note “Unclaimed – Return to Sender.”  Imagine that!

 

I brought back gifts for all the family. Janice received a myrtle-wood vase from Oregon, brother Mark a table lamp with a cactus base, and Daddy, a polished piece of petrified wood. My ledger shows I bought Jean a pretty blouse for $ 4.10, but alas no picture here!

Web_1964_Janice receiving gift

 

Web_1964_Postcard_Petrified-Forest+Ray-receives gift_AZ

 

Aunt Ruthie, brother Mark, and Mother Ruth
Aunt Ruthie with Christofferson paintings from Albuquerque, brother Mark with lamp, and Mother Ruth with a myrtle-wood pedestal dish

And something for myself too

I'll still using the bookends I bought in Tijuana, Mexico
I’m still using the alabaster bookends I bought in Tijuana, Mexico

 

The strangest thing I brought back: Water in a Gerber’s baby food jar (Aunt Ruthie’s suggestion) from The Great Salt Lake, where we floated with no danger of sinking.

 

Photos   I took almost two hundred photos on Kodak Ektachrome color slide film and sent home film rolls in heat-resistant pouches to be developed. Joann took photos and movies.

We don’t make a photograph just with a camera, we bring to the act of photography all the books we have read, the movies we have seen, the music we have heard, the people we have loved.

– Ansel Adams