When your kid's special day lands on a whammy! Plus, the movies that made us ...
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If We Took a Holiday …
I have always felt sorry for those whose birthdays fell on a holiday. Halloween birthdays have to be spooky. 4th of July birthdays? Well, sparkly. And Christmas and Chanukah birthdays inevitably mean that, net net, you’re losing out on some gifts.
I have been fortunate. My own early-February birthday (2/6) provides a welcome calendar jolt after a barren and dreary January. It also dovetails nicely into Valentine’s Day, helping to amplify a good chunk of our shortest month.
Our son Cielo was not so fortunate. His birthday (9/29) falls on Yom Kippur—or near it, depending on how the lunar and solar calendars align. It’s hard to imagine, but our energetic and effervescent child was actually born on the Jewish Day of Atonement. Cue sad trombone.
Yom Kippur is not exactly the merry multiplicand. I mean, what could we even do? Add his birthday cake to a break-the-fast bagel and shmear smorgasbord?! They just don’t go together. Revel over here, and please, repent over there.
Last month, I decided to do some reading about the ways in which Jews are expected to observe “Yom” (as some Modern-Orthodox Jews like to term the holiday, for short.) There is abstaining from food and drink, of course. But there are also three prescribed ways we can ask for (and attain) forgiveness: prayer, reflection, and charity.
It turns out then, that kids birthdays and Yom aren’t really that far apart. After all, aren’t these the three things parents find themselves doing as they plan to celebrate their children?
We pray—we make a wish for our children, and with our children
This go-round, I wished that Cielo would remain healthy and happy (of course). I also wished that we, as his Dads, would continue to have the time, the means, and the avenues to keep opening Cielo’s world up to the experiences we know and suspect he might enjoy. I wished, too, for the space to be there for him as he asks questions and soaks up information. During the pandemic, I have found myself with the opportunity to be able to answer so many of Cielo’s queries, in detail and in depth. I wish for that to always be true. In fact, at his party this year, we felt grateful to have the chance to explain to our child what a “wish” means, even before we explained the tradition of blowing out your candles and making one.
We reflect —we take stock, we evaluate, we mark milestones, and we make an intention for the year to come based not only on successes but also on shortcomings
I have made myself two commitments based on my own contemplation around Cielo’s birthday. A friend told me the other day that while, yes, congrats, we are now out of the “terrible twos”, we are also now the parents of a “three-nager”.
Knowing this isn’t going to be an easy peasy year, I have made these promises: To listen harder for the intent in my child’s request, before I jump in with a no; and to connect more with my husband over the joys and discoveries that are inherent in even the most challenging parenting episodes.
We give charity—aware of our abundance and grateful for the generosity of family and friends, we take the opportunity to model giving back
Plain and simple, we have started to explain to Cielo the virtues of donating things you have to others who might be in need of them. Yesterday morning, surrounded by many of his old toys and his new birthday haul, we sat chatting. I reminded our son that, you know, some families have more and some have less, and that …
I said that the why is very complicated, but that the what we can do is really easy and even fun. We talked about identifying books, clothes, and toys he thinks he might be able to part with in the coming days. Had he forgotten he had them? Had he outgrown them? Had he gotten overwhelmed trying to pick what to play with next?
He listened intently and then looked up, sort of sad and sort of resigned, and said, “Daddy, I want everything, but some things I will share for always.” That’s right, I said and hugged him tight. He had nailed it: charity is sharing something for always.
How incredible then for us that Cielo’s birthday—a literal inpouring of love and presents—is complemented by a day that demands we look backward, forward, and outward?
Reddy Made …
We will never fully understand why certain movies we see as a kid bury themselves deep in our psyches while others seem to make no impression. For me, living rent free in my heart and mind all these years are films that include Grease, Escape to Witch Mountain, The Red Balloon. And, Disney’s oft-forgotten Pete’s Dragon. From 1977, this part live-action, part-animated musical fantasy told the story of an orphan boy who, on the run from abusive caretakers, befriends an invisible (to everyone but him) cartoon dragon named Elliot.
The story, which takes place in Maine during the early 1900’s, barely resonated with me. Still, I fell deeply in love with it. And that’s because of Helen Reddy. She stars as Nora, a sweet and caring woman who would eventually adopt Pete. Reddy sings these two songs in the movie—“It’s Not Easy” and “Candle on the Water”—and even at age 4, I felt these two performances profoundly. In a movie that was about an always-muddy boy in often dark circumstances, her angelic voice and face just got to me.
This past week, Helen Reddy passed away at the age 78. I have been watching YouTube videos of her singing ever since. Her voice remains a salve for me, even in these intense and frightening times. You can check out Reddy’s Oscar-nominated song from Pete’s Dragon (below):
C’mon, tell us! What are the movies that have stayed with you, long after seeing them as a kid?
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