Today, my oldest child Ella turns 13. Just a few days ago on June 6 she became a bat mitzvah. In the Jewish tradition, this means she is now responsible for her actions, following Jewish law, ethics and values and is able to lead religious services. She is now an adult in the eyes of the community.
This past year has been one of tremendous growth for her in all the ways. She is becoming her own person and I am incredibly proud of her as she takes on challenges, expands her knowledge, learns from her mistakes, sifts through her emotions and greets the world with tolerance and humor. She is certainly merging into adulthood, but she will always be my little girl. This is the speech I gave in her honor at her bat mitzvah.
Ella: a few months ago I asked you how you were feeling about your bat mitzvah. You answered immediately and with confidence, “Oh, great mom. I’ve totally got the Hebrew and I’m getting the trope (musical pronunciation), no problem.”
I said, that’s great, but how are you feeling about your bat mitzvah. You took a minute then said, “You know mom, I think it’s an amazing thing. Being able to read Torah is a holy act and when I get up there to read, I’ll be closer to G-d.”
Wow. A few people have told me that in these days leading up to your bat mitzvah you look like you’re glowing. And it’s true. There is a glow about you that I think is a mix of excitement, love, a little bit of nerves, and yes, a shimmer of holiness surrounding you.
You have always floored me with your insights and the depth of your emotions. As a little girl, you literally ran circles around the group at music class, refusing to sit down, preferring to dance and wiggle. You were in your own little bubble of joy. Yet when you saw one of your friends, you’d race up to them and give them an enormous hug, bestowing all your love on them in that moment. You’ve always had that ability to be totally goofy and to laugh at yourself, but also give yourself the space and time to ponder and explore how you feel and how you relate to the world and people around you.
I am a self-described late bloomer and you and I often talk about you being a late bloomer too. You’ve only just started growing taller when many of your friends had growth spurts a few years ago.
You’ve been playing soccer for many seasons, but it’s only in the last season or two that you’ve truly found your groove. I often find you outside juggling the ball on your knees and practicing your footwork.
You are a fierce and loyal friend, a loving older sister and natural leader.
At school you’ve really delved into what you love and what excites you intellectually, like singing in the school Rock Band and figuring out those complex algebra equations. This is how you’re coming to know yourself, by pursuing what you love, but still being open to new experiences – like going to a new sleep away camp this summer, taking on tennis lessons and tackling a complex singing solo for your last recital. Watching you find your joy is such a gift.
A few weeks ago I was in our backyard watering the flowers when I noticed our giant ferns. From the center of one of them was a curled, fuzzy, green stem. It was a new frond in the process of gently unfurling into a new season.
With each passing spring day, encouraged by the sun, that frond would eventually emerge and bloom, joining the dozens of other fully formed fronds along the sturdy stalk. With each unfurling, the fern grows up and out, year after year. Looking at the fern, it made me realize that perhaps there’s no such thing as a late bloomer. We all bloom in our own time, in the time that’s right for us.
Ella, this is my wish for you: that you continue to unfurl season after season, in your own time, in your own beautiful way. Never lose your enthusiasm and gusto for life. Never stop choosing to smile instead of frown. Keep on laughing at the silly, the unbelievable, the amazing.
I’m so proud of you and love you very much. Not just today, but everyday. Never stop blooming.