I am so happy to be here today.
I thank Gabriel’s parents, David and Giselle, for the great honor of inviting me to speak. My initial reaction was to go right home and dig out my old silver bugle, polish it up and practice so I could play a Fanfare to Gabriel at his Bar Mitzvah! Then I calmed down a bit. Eighty-six year old grandmothers do not usually play Fanfares at bar mitzvahs. I would keep the idea in abeyance.
Gabriel’s grandfather, Mort, my late husband who died twelve years ago is the person who – in the best of all possible worlds – would be making this speech. He loved Gabriel deeply. Brooklyn-born, working class, public school educated, he was a reader, a writer, a chess player, no athlete. He graduated from high school not knowing what he would become.
On a Maritime Service ship in the Atlantic, the government sent books for the sailors. Mort read Margaret Mead’s COMING OF AGE IN SAMOA, an anthropological study, and it changed his life. He would be an anthropologist and study ritual, religion and culture. And so he did.
Purposefully, he went through Brooklyn College ($25 a year!) then Columbia University. I was lucky enough to meet him and to marry him and go off to Trinidad on his first field trip. Where our first child was born. He knew so much about religion and ritual and culture and their beauty and importance in all our lives even those of us who are not particularly observant. HE should have made this speech!
David – when you were still living at home, your lifelong dream was to dwell in a mythical paradise called “Klass Acres.” In your corny version of Eden, all would be perfect, parents, siblings, ambiance, et cetera! Your mother would have a well modulated, ladylike voice. She would be discretion itself, her dress impeccable, fashionable, and dignified. Dulcet voice. No weird opinions. No bugle to call you to lunch. Forget that mother; she was science fiction.
But otherwise, Dave, 105th Street and Broadway ain’t bad! Add a lovely, smart wife and two beautiful, delightful, complicated, humorous children. Earning your living at what you like to do and do well: teaching at Columbia and writing books and movie and TV scripts. All of this we celebrate today here. You’re close to your Klass Acres, David. May more and more of your dreams come true.
For me, it’s a singular honor to speak at Gabriel’s bar mitzvah. Maybe I should have played the fanfare. Nah, too freaky. Gabe, you are – in the best sense of the word – cool. Never judgmental. It’s very nice for me to be 86 years old and eccentric and have one relative who always treats me like I’m sane. Gabriel, so far, you have held up beautifully! No matter what my condition; I come to the front door and knock my ParkYarKarKuS special knock (Eddie Cantor show 1930’s-40’s) and I’m given entry. I’m more than welcomed. I’m in!
Gabe, for me, you are an absolute delight: a kind, smart, funny, loving grandson with, of course, that beautiful red hair. Gabriel is truly interested in everything – EVERYTHING – like his late grandfather was. To want to know more was a major part of Mort’s life and I see it in his heirs. It drove our family to wander all over the world. I would never, myself, have dreamed of such ventures. How lucky I was!
What’s really remarkable to me about Gabriel is that never once in his thirteen years has he complained or even winced at family eccentricities. And believe me, he had cause; we are peculiar, and what’s really odd is that we enjoy and celebrate nuttiness. Other kids might find me embarrassing – Not Gabe. He has real courage. I love him and salute him on this, his 13th birthday. Happy bar mitzvah, Gabe!