My kids’ school has this tradition of honoring a couple of kids at their Shabbat celebration each week and dedicating the Oneg to them. Each student spends time during the week writing a note and making a drawing for the kids being honored at the Oneg about why they are special and then on Friday afternoon, the kid gets to sit up in the front of the room with their family and special invited friends. During the service, for the primary grade, the teachers read from the notes to the group and then the kids get to choose from parents, teachers and friends to tell them out loud, in front of the whole assembly why they like that kid.
This is a huge event for the kids. They look forward to it all year and really, it’s incredibly adorable. It’s a truly big deal for them. They know they’ll get to pass the tzedaka box around, they know they get to sit up in front of the classroom, and they get their first experience with public speaking as they introduce their families.
When Sam had his first oneg, I was nine months pregnant with Naomi. I’m pretty much a sap, anyway, but put my huge pregnant belly on an itty bitty elementary school chair to watch my firstborn’s class tell us they love him because he has a heart of silver and gold turned me into a blubbering mess. Tali watched in horror, the moment etched in her heart forever. Sam turned to me and told me frankly, “I’m going to have to call on Daddy next time.”
For Tali’s first oneg, she invited her Aunt Kate and cousin Asher, who showed up dressed as a tiger. He was roaring at her classmates, but guess who she was embarrassed about? At least she warned me ahead of time. “I’m sorry, Mommy. I want you to know I’m going to call on Aunt Kate because she’s not going to cry.” Fine. The teacher went on to say wonderful things about my wonderful girl, her friends professed their love for her heart of silver and gold and her aunt blubbered at what a wonderful person she was and how proud she was to be her auntie. Tali beamed proudly.
Last week Tali had her oneg. Because of the remodel we’re in the middle of, the job craziness B and I are in the middle of, the insanity of our schedules, we told my parents at the last minute and they came. I could tell Tali was surveying her options. Her teacher said lovely things about her, her friends still considered her heart silver and gold, plus she helped people when they fell down on the playground, and many of the pictures they drew for her proclaimed “Tali rocks!” I beamed.
When the time came, she chose me as her family representative to say why they loved her. She put her hand on my leg as she came up to me and then gave me a look that I would never mistake for being anything other than “Don’t mess this up.” Gulp.
I thought about baseball and those little charts Boaz uses to keep score with during the game. I thought about watching golf on TV. I thought about split pea soup. I said something about how I loved Tali because she had a great sense of humor, makes me laugh, and has the best hugs ever. She smiled broadly at me and moved on.
I didn’t cry.
But the thing is, I didn’t say anything about how Tali is one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met. I didn’t mention the fact that when she was two and we took her to see the Pooh’s Heffalump Adventure, she sobbed inconsolably when Lumpy was separated from his mother, walked out of that movie and said, “There is nothing sadder than a movie where a kid can’t find his mommy,” and then proceeded to cry everytime she thought about it.
I didn’t say anything about the fact that Tali is capable of such incredibly silliness that she can make me forget that I’m a grown up. Her smile takes up her whole face and her freckles make you happy just by looking at them.
I didn’t say anything about how my sweet, gentle girl is a maniac on the soccer field and will throw herself into walls on an indoor court. She runs like a wild animal and when she’s concentrating on something, you forget she’s a child because her expression is so fierce.
And I didn’t mention that she is so sensitive that she already feels emotions so deep they make her physically sick to her stomach. But that she has the depth to understand that it is her
feelings making her feel a certain way.
When I was pregnant with her, I had some bad test results with my triple screen that implied that there were chances of her being born with some chromosomal abnormalities. I felt her first kicks on my way to the amnio and was devastated that it happened to be that I felt her on the day when I might learn so much about her future. Later that night, after the procedure while I was lying in bed trying to go to sleep and not think about the day, I felt her kick again. And I had such a strong feeling that she would be okay.
That is how I feel about Tali still. She is someone who will persevere and who will succeed. She is someone who can still look beautiful even while doing her infamous lizard nose (I’ve never seen a girl with such nose muscle control!!!). My Tali… I will listen to you and contain myself in singing your praises in public, but at least now I’ve had my say.