Sunday, 27 November 2011

Mazel Tov: Part 2, Thursday evening-Friday

You know why there has been such a loooong delay between Parts 1 and 2 of this story? Because I'm slightly overwhelmed by all of The Things that happened Thursday evening through Sunday. It's a bit nerve-wracking, imagining actually writing it all up. But, deep breath, here I go!

Thursday evening
We landed at the Dallas airport at the scheduled time, and were met by Clover and Neptune's grandparents (A's father and his wife). To get to the baggage claim, one had to go through a revolving glass door which, predictably, went just fine... for us. There were two doors, and in the second one we could see a man trapped like a gerbil in a cage. It looked disconcerting to experience, but I was rather amused-- and relieved that it wasn't one of the children (or myself!).

Upon meeting the children's grandparents, we headed off with them to a delicious Mexican restaurant, where we joined the kids' uncle, aunt, and cousins for dinner. It was a full table, and replete with cheerful chatter as everyone caught up on the happenings in each other's lives. We passed on greetings from K and A, and inquired after the preparations for the Big Weekend. Everything seemed to be going according to plan, with one exception-- Cousin R had met with a small accident that resulted in some pretty miserable abrasions to his face. Nothing too serious, but enough so that everyone who noticed had a sinking feeling. The questions, "Are you ok?!" and "What will you do about the pictures?" came with fairly equal urgency. (In case anyone is concerned, let me assure you-- both the pictures and the boy are just fine.)

After dinner we headed to the hotel, after swinging by a Wal-Green en route. After all, the children could not be made to go without a sweet treat, could they? Of course not! Their grandmother made sure we were well-stocked when it came to sweet treats. Once we got to the hotel, we fairly quickly settled down to bed-- Clover and Neptune in a room adjoining their grandparents', and me in a room down the hall. It was nice to have some calm and quiet after a rather chaotic day!

Friday began with breakfast in the hotel, which was followed by my exploration of Dallas while the children spent time with their cousins. I took the light rail into town, and meandered about for a few hours. Though I mostly spent my time just strolling and looking around, I did also stop into the Nasher Sculpture Center. What a wonderful array of artwork they have! Their featured exhibit at the time was of Tony Cragg work, which I enjoyed immensely. I was far from understanding all of it, but it was fun to try and work out what he was getting at.

Outside in the sculpture garden I found many other beautiful pieces of art. Just the garden itself was a sight to behold! The weather was clear and reasonably warm, perfect for leisurely looking around the garden and finding what it had to offer.

After walking the length of downtown Dallas (according to my map which was, admittedly, rather limited), I hopped back on the light rail and headed for the hotel. There I met up with Clover, Neptune, and assorted members of their extended family (and the extended family's extended family!). I was immediately presented with a Hospitality Box, which is a delightful thing. Inside I found all sorts of snacks and bottled water, many of which I consumed over the next few days. It was a wonderful treat!

Eventually we had to get dressed and head off to the temple for Shabbat services. While he was very excited about going to temple, Neptune was far from excited to wear a buttoned shirt and blazer. He moaned, and muttered under his breath, and whined, though he did get dressed without any physical opposition. "You're going to stop complaining the minute we get out of the hotel room, right?" I pressed him. Though I found the whinging mildly irritating, it didn't bother me all that much-- but I didn't want him to turn a pleasant evening into a series of complaints! "Yeah, I'll stop," he promised. And he did! As soon as we left the room, all conversations about what he was wearing ceased (at least in my hearing range-- and that's all that matters, right?).

I had never been to any sort of Jewish service before-- not Shabbat, not a bar/bat mitzvah, and not a wedding. The closest I had ever come was the celebration of Hanukkah and Passover at the home of Neptune, Clover, K and A. I loved those experiences, but they did not exactly prepare me for a full service lead by a rabbi and a cantor.

It was just lovely.

At many religious ceremonies I feel somewhat awkward, as I am far from religious myself. Though I respect the beliefs of others who are, I do not share them. I am as agnostic as they come! But I can be respectful of others' beliefs and traditions, so I was not concerned about the service, just interested. Imagine my delight when I found that I thoroughly enjoyed the entirety of the service. The overarching theme was a plea and hope for peace. And who can't get behind that? I loved the singing of the prayers, the recitation by the congregation, and the familiarity of the rabbi and cantor with the people there. Clearly it is a group that is very close-knit.

After the service, there was a dinner that all of Mitzvah's grandparents hosted. There was a delicious spread of food, including kugel (!!). Who would have thought to make a CINNAMON ROLL out of NOODLES? Brilliant, I tell you. The children sat at tables of their similarly-aged cousins (and cousins-of-cousins, including one kid with whom Neptune got to be very good friends over the course of the weekend!), and I sat with an assortment of friendly adults. I found it very amusing that, despite my having a very clear "label" for my relationship with the children (that would be "nanny," you know), I don't think I ever actually heard that word used. I was referred to as a "travelling companion," "custodian friend," and "Oh, you're the kids'... You're Blythe! You seem to really love the kids." I think that last one was my favourite. Yes! I'm Blythe! And I do love hue kids!

By the time we got back to the hotel that night, the kids were exhausted. It was 10:00 Dallas time, and while that was only 8:00 Seattle time, the hours made little difference. It had been a busy day, and the children were beyond exhausted. Everyone collapsed into bed, and I placed my wake-up call order with the front desk.

The next day was the Bar Mitzvah!

Stay tuned for Part 3...

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