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

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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.

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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

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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

Oh Happy Day!

I am sitting with my three friends, Gladys Graybill, Hazel Garber, and Millie Zimmerman near the pulpit in front of Bossler Mennonite Church to be baptized. At the prompting of our Bishop Clarence E. Lutz, we kneel, and as we kneel I hear the crinkle of the skirt of my caped dress. Mother and I have chosen a taffeta fabric for this special day – a dress made of tiny checks of navy, silver and white to set off my dark-haired braids now covered with a prayer veiling. The dress has a tiny collar with navy piping. I love that navy piping. Besides the silky fabric, this tiny decoration is the only fancy thing about this plain dress with a cape overlaying the bodice.

Since I made a spiritual decision in June, I have been wearing my hair in pigtails topped with a covering. For the first time since then, my braided hair has been pinned up around my head with hairpins in accordance with church rules. But today my prayer veiling has strings dangling from its two corners. Before the service, we have met in the church basement with the Bishop’s wife Elsie Lutz, who has requested that we girls wear strings of white satin ribbon attached the two corners of our coverings, I suppose for an extra measure of plainness. “Oh, you girls look so nice!” she gushes as she inspects our apparel, especially our heads, before we ascend the steps to the main sanctuary.

This girls' cover strings are black. Mine were white, but attached the same way.
This young woman’s covering strings are black. Mine were white, but attached the same way. (Bicentennial photo, Bossler Mennonite Church)

 

We three girls are ushered to the front where Bishop Lutz and Deacon John Kraybill wait with a basin of water and a white linen towel ironed smooth. We have been through a kind of catechism entitled “Instructions to Beginners in the Christian Life,” which includes a review of the tenets of faith, nonresistance to evil and nonconformity to the world, and the ordinances of Communion, Feet Washing, the Devotional Covering, the Holy Kiss, Anointing with Oil, and Marriage. The first ordinance is Baptism, which we are now ready to participate in with two “I do’s” and “I am (sorry for my sins), with a final “I do,” promising by the “grace of God, and the aid of the Holy Spirit, to submit [myself] to Christ and His Word, and faithfully to abide in the same until death.”

Instructions to Beginners in the Christian Life_2 pages together_300

After prayer, we remain kneeling. And the Bishop, assisted by the Deacon who is holding a basin of water, takes a handful of water from the basin and pours it methodically three times in succession on the head of the applicant intoning the words: “I baptize thee with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” This statement is followed by the Bishop taking us by the hand and saying as we rise:

In the name of Christ and His Church I give you my hand. Arise! And as Christ was raised up by the glory of the Father, even so thou also shalt walk in newness of life . . . 

The wives of the Bishop and the Deacon then give us the kiss of peace, and thus we are received into the church fellowship. The congregation in four-part harmony happily joins in the tradition of singing “O Happy Day” from the Mennonite Church Hymnal with shaped notes.

Happy Day_Bossler Mennonite Church Hymnal_ 5x7_300

I remember this day so well. It was September 29, 1951, my sister Janice’s birthday.

*  *  *

Earlier this month, our oldest grandson and only grand-daughter, Patrick and Jenna Dalton, were baptized at Highlands Baptist Church. Their family attends a Lutheran Church, which like the Mennonites also baptizes by sprinkling, but since their parents wanted their Uncle Bill to baptize them, they complied (happily I might add) with baptism by immersion. Words similar to those spoken at my baptism accompanied their immersion in the water: “Buried with Christ in his death . . . raised to walk in newness of life.”

Rev. Bill Caverly baptizing Grand-nephew Patrick Dalton
Rev. Bill Caverly baptizing grand-nephew Patrick Dalton

 

What special sacred ceremonies have you observed or participated in yourself?

 

Coming next – The Potting Shed: A Magical Place

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 . . .