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The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

First Fruits

A pivotal slice of life moment on Saturday morning, as I sat in the sanctuary of Kol Emet; a Reconstructionist synagogue in Yardley, PA, surrounded by the family and friends of a magical faerie child turning 13 year old extraordinary young woman. Garbed in cotton candy pink ballerina dress,the  ideal costume for the dancer that she is, with silver sparkly heels on feet that walked her into the adulthood ritual of the Bat Mitzvah, stood Cady Cohen…my God-daughter. Sandy blond ringlets fell to her shoulders,  in front of the congregation, co-leading the service with Rabbi Howard Cove; taking on a Torah portion that was lengthy and keeping in character with the person who seems not to shy away from a challenge.  She was composed,  with an occasional brow wrinkle and then a smile as she moved through it, with her teacher, Rabbi Susan Schein at her side for guidance,  She then chanted her Haftorah which is sometimes the bane of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah candidate.  The word  haftorah means “parting” or “taking leave” and is connected to the theme of the torah portion itself. In Cady’s case, it was from the Book of Isaiah. 
 
What jumped out at me about this selection was that it focused on the idea of being servant to the Divine (in biblical language…Yahweh) and offering ‘first fruits’ or our personal best, to the world. Imagine a ripe, juicy (whatever your favorite succulent vine/tree ripened treat) held out in your hand as a measure of your love and devotion to the One who created you.  Cady is colorful and playful, but seriously dedicated to her craft, which has long been dance. I have been to several of her recitals and have watched, mesmerized as if she IS dance itself, being danced by the  music, rather than dancing to the music. With the tenacity of a true veteran, she has gone through auditions for shows and when she hasn’t gotten chosen for a particular role, she has smiled and shrugged and moved on with an attitude of  ‘there’s always the next time.’  During the service, Rabbi Schein offered commentary on Cady’s sparkling personality; laughing as she described that during her first lesson, Cady came in wearing a sequined beret.  Rabbi Cove spoke of the importance of Tikkun Olam (the repair of the world) and Tzedakah (giving  -from- the -heart charity). Cady’s Bat Mitzvah project was raising donations for the Lung Cancer Research Foundation, since her dance teacher’s mother who she described as a surrograte grandmother, had died of the disease.

 

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What made this event so poignant, was the memory of a particularly dark day in 1998. I had answered the pay phone in the waiting room at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia where I had spent several weeks  by that point, holding vigil while awaiting a liver transplant for my husband that never came to be. The voice on the other end was that of my friend Barbara Cohen who has been in my life since we were 14 year old competitive swimmers who met on the bench prior to our event.  She offered an honor to me. “Glenn and I decided to name you Cady’s God-mother, so you will have a little girl to spoil.” Grateful tears fell as I welcomed this gift and a distraction from my pain.

One of my favorite Cady memories was when she was around 6 months old. One of my hats is that of a clown who loves to teach people that humor is healing. I was prepping for teaching a workshop and wanted an example of the perfect laugh. What could be better than a child’s giggle?  Cady was lying on a blanket, feet kicking in the air and we played the universally fun game of peek-a-boo. With a tape player nearby, each silvery twinkle was recorded.  The members of the class loved it. Wish I still had the tape and wonder if Cady is still open to playing peek-a-boo. (:

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On the bimah (platform/podium in front of the synagogue), Cady was enwrapped in a floral tallis (prayer shawl) lovingly created by her paternal  Bubbe, which is Yiddish for grandmother,  whose name is Corrine a.k.a ‘Cookie’.  Cady’s older brother Alex and older sister Blake were similarly gifted by Cookie’s talents and in 7 years, their little sister Darah will be making her choice of fabric for her own tallis. I was honored to stand by Cady’s side and read a poem called A Rainbow of Friends and during the reception afterward was called to light a candle on the decadently decorated cupcake cake. Those were not the only tearful moments, but stood out among them.

I marveled at the passage of time as I took note of the friends of Barb and Glenn who shared in the joyous occasion as well. Jimmy, who was Glenn’s Best Man at their wedding  ( I was the Matron of Honor), and was also my counterpart as Cady’s Godfather, had come up from Virginia with his wife Bernadette (lovingly referred to as ‘Bernie’). Caught up on the lives of Chuck and another Edie; creative types…Chuck works for an ad agency and Edie is a jewelry designer. A poignant moment came when Ralph, Barb’s formerly vigorous, tall father was brought in by wheelchair, pushed by her brother Tony. Widowed a few years ago, when Barb’s mom died as a result of a stroke, he maintains an active social life, playing cards with friends and spending time with family.

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At the reception, while Cady’s friends where indulging their appetites at the buffet, the D.J. encouraged the ‘big kids’ to come out on the dance floor for what he referred to as ‘adult swim’.  Motown tunes blasted out of the speakers as we had a blast, ‘sweatin’ to  the oldies’. I do have to say brazenly and without modesty….we still got some moves(:

I offer you the song that was played when I was called up to  light the candle.  That’s What Friends Are For

http://youtu.be/EtGF2m102Wg

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