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Monday, July 2, 2012

With Ava's bat mitzvah over and the blurr of planning and preparing is resting, I can sum up the entire day in a word...juxtapositioning. An interesting way to remember it but it's true. Ava was amazing...well, Ava IS amazing but on this particular day she truly was. She was poised, graceful and chanted Torah like a rabbi but in very typical Ava fashion, she beamed like a beacon and in that light sat me, her mother, like a puffer fish. Pride doesn't even cut it. But with all the hoopla and craziness that goes into the party AFTER the light, I noticed some interesting things - sort of a memo from the Reality Express. As we were walking into the sanctuary after all had been seated and Ava was positioned beautifully on the bimah, my friend Susanne shared with me some tragic news that she knew would be mentioned in the rabbi's sermon and wanted me to be prepared...a soldier friend of ours was killed in Afghanistan. I felt as if I was kicked in the stomach...yeah can I make his death about me for five more seconds? It was a combination of great sadness, great pain and great irony. Here we were celebrating the culmination of study and life in our daughter and one of our own was taken on the lines. I cried, I felt torn in this celebration and it was overwhelming...preparing to walk into the sanctuary smiling when in my heart I knew that not far from me, two children were greiving the loss of their dad and one woman is without the love of her life. It wasn't long ago that I stayed up late at night watching CNN hoping to Gd the Khost province of Afghanistan remained calm. I remember hearing my brother and my husband missed each other by hours at the same base in husband and my brother. Long days indeed. Susanne reminds me of the circle...within the cirle are layers - layers that matter. The immediate circle now was Ava. I had to keep her in that circle and protect it from anything else - for this moment. So I composed myself and with Joseph - grieving as well, walked in together to join Ava in the light. We celebrated, cried, laughed and shared with Ava and at the closing, honored Paul who was taken far too soon. The party was exciting and fun...a very appropriate beach themed night with slushies, games, dancing and Ava's favorite...a build your own nacho bar (thank you Amy Gold - best. idea. ever.) Without my sister wives, it could not be done. Pam and Susan swooped in to take over - set up, decorations, army formed on Ava's behalf and even Joseph said when in Pam's presence he felt scared to be standing around taking a break. Catering arrived, DJ set up, balloon lady arrived (who can remember her name? Balloon lady works, cake, slushie truck...yeah it was a party alright) - all in Ava's honor and I could not have been more thrilled. As the night moved (and so did we), it was wonderful to watch Ava so happy and dancing with her friends. Adriana and Elana wrote a poem for her, Adriana sang a song, we made a video, toasts and dancing and of course, the Hora...the Jewish hustle, all in celebration. Paul wasn't far away in our minds but we did what we came to do - celebrate Ava. As the night ended and clean up began, I found myself overwhelmed with what to do with all the food. Much was left over, it's now about midnight and I knew there was no room in my fridge to store or even use it all. I was mulling over what to keep and what to throw away when one of the helpers approached me saying she had no food at home and could she please take the left over beans..."so good to keep the kids going during the day"...words I can't imagine saying when referring to how to make a meal last for several hours for children I can't always feed. For the second time in one night, juxtapostioning. Suddenly the overwhelming task of how to clean this all up became a mission of rightousness. Susan and I boxed up every single crumb of food and drink and gave it to her. Gluttony meet mercy. I can still see her waiting for the car to be pulled up because she had five boxes of food that needed to be loaded in her car - I wondered if the kids would be excited, I wondered how much peace this might give her, I wondered what not knowing how to feed your kids must be really like...and I knew it didn't fix the problem. I knew those kids would be hungry again in a few days, but for now... As we drove home - exhausted and elated I saw the coorelations unfold. As we celebrated Ava's life, Pauls' was taken. A combination of great pain and great pride -crashing into each other at the same time. And then...60 kids left a party without ever knowing some of their own will eat tonight because of what they left behind. No music, no fanfare - leftovers on a party platter. But y'know what? I don't feel guilty for what we have and I don't teach my children to either. I have been without enough times to still feel it and even though our kids' can't relate to poverty, they get it and by sharing with Ava what we did do for those kids, it brought us back to what a bat mitzvah really is...responsibility and awareness of what your role is in life. When we shared with Ava what her party brought to those kids she smiled and said, "can we invite them to dinner?" - sure Ava...bringing anyone struggling into the fold is how Ava rolls...and the focus moves back to her and how she wants to help. And the puffer fish is back.