Life Interrupted

We’ve been discussing it for years. The combined bat mitzvah quinceanera— perhaps the world’s first bat mitzvanera. I think everyone thought it was cute in the beginning, a funny idea from dad to blend both traditions. I first wrote about it a decade ago, maybe earlier. Slowly it gained acceptance, and momentum, and over the years it took root in our family as a legit thing. It seemed like our own version of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

More than a year ago we began planning the real thing, looking at function rooms, picking a date. Her birthday weekend: THAT would be perfect. March 14th. The date was set. The following months went quickly, looking at quinceanera dresses in store after store, picking a court of her friends, finding a florist and picking flowers, looking at cakes and doing cake tastings, deciding on a reception, deciding on a theme, taking secret dance lessons. Yes secret dance lessons— with practice and even MORE practice. 

In the past few months we found the Rabbi for our bat mitzvanera event and Alicia began intensive weekly tutoring to learn her prayers, the week’s Torah portion, to learn and discuss her connection to Judaism that she had never explored before. It’s been amazing to see.

Just after new year, invitations went out across the country to our families, friends, coworkers, Alicia’s classmates. You never realize what goes into a party this big. 

The planning. 

The preparations. 

More planning. 

More preparations.

Then the word Coronavirus entered the nation’s vocabulary. And social distancing. And pandemic. 

The news cycle started to heat up just a couple of weeks ago, and still we were hopeful this party would make it just in the knick of time, ahead of the bigger problems. I crossed my fingers. Even this past weekend, it seemed we’d still be OK ahead of what was coming.

We had one friend of Alicia’s cancel early on. Her parents were concerned about their child being in a big gathering. That was more than a week ago. It was a sign of what was to come.

Then the NBA cancelled all games.

Then Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson got sick.

Then schools started to close.

Then the Governor started to limit crowds.

Then even Disneyland closed.

This has been such a whirlwind week. Friends who had RSVP’d ‘yes’ started to pull out. Parents had concerns over their kids. Family was afraid to travel. People had questions we couldn’t answer. One asked us what the hotel could do to guarantee everyone’s safety.

And midweek on what has been an exhausting and earth shattering week as to how we live our life, we started discussing with the hotel about officially POSTPONING the same party we had been talking about for ten years, the same party we had been planning for more than a year, the same bat mitzvanera we always talked about. 

People’s SAFETY is too important.

Our kids are too important.

And yet still, there is a huge emotional impact for our daughter and our family as well. This weekend we’ll gather with just a small group to celebrate her 15th birthday. No grand dress. No mystery dance. No bat mitzvanera.  

Not yet anyway. 

Life interrupted. It’s what many of us are experiencing right now.

Yet, we have our health right now and that’s what seems most important. 

On this journey into adulthood, our daughter may have inadvertently learned the most important lesson for all.  

About Pete Wilgoren

Author of Dadmissions. Pete Wilgoren is an Emmy winning journalist, blogger, and author writing about parenthood, life, and other stuff
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