This January marks K’s Bat Mitzvah. Just before COVID hit in March I was researching venues, because after the service at which she would be called to the Torah we would of course want to celebrate with our friends and family. Needless to say, that’s currently impossible.
Beyond working with K as she learns to chant her Torah portion, I have done pretty much nothing to prepare. I haven’t ordered personalized kippot (plural of kippah) or, as everyone is doing these days, personalized fabric masks. We can’t really have a party, so I haven’t engaged a caterer or any kind of musicians, nor have I ordered invitations. And even though we could have a photographer and/or videographer (the better to share the experience with our family and friends,) I haven’t hired one yet.
COVID-19 has definitely forced many of us to live in the moment and not plan too far ahead; I might be taking that to an extreme, though. I just don’t want to plan a bunch of stuff that I then have to un-plan or re-plan. Who knows what level of restrictions we’ll be under by the time mid-January rolls around? A month ago we were talking about being allowed to invite a maximum of thirty-five people to the synagogue. Today that number would be a maximum of ten. Will it have risen to twenty-five by January? Who knows?
I’m no stranger to procrastination. I’m also no stranger to denial and refusing to plan. When I was pregnant with K, the shock and grief of my recent miscarriage was still very strongly with me. I walked around grateful to be pregnant, enjoying every moment (really!), but not expecting to have a “take-home baby” at the end of everything. A couple of weeks before my due date I finally bought a car seat (you can’t go home from the hospital without one,) a stroller, and enough baby clothes and supplies to get me through the first few days until I could send the grandmothers out shopping. That was it. We didn’t have a crib or change table or rocking chair. If the worst happened, God forbid, there wouldn’t be too many things in the house to augment my grief.
K was definitely a “take-home baby” who needed the stuff all babies need; but the fact that I had prepared only the bare minimum of stuff didn’t hurt us at all. All the things we needed for her could be acquired in a single day.
I’m hoping the same approach to K’s Bat Mitzvah will work equally well, because half of me is not expecting the actual ceremony to happen. As long as she’s prepared to do her part (chanting the Torah portion and Haftarah, and giving a speech about them) and has something appropriate to wear (she does,) everything else can probably be done at ten days’ notice: inviting people (because nobody’s going anywhere or doing anything anyway,) getting a photographer (for the Tuesday afternoon rehearsal, not a high-demand time,) and ordering a maximum of 70 take-away brunch boxes to give to everyone who comes to services that morning.
So many of the trappings, like centerpieces and floral arrangements and a logo for the Bat Mitzvah—really? a logo? apparently everybody has one—just don’t matter at all. And while I’d love to be able to get together with family and friends from near and far, and we’d all love a good party, I’m kind of thankful that K’s Bat Mitzvah will be focused on the ceremony itself. It’s like people have been saying for years: “Less Bar, More Mitzvah.”
But just in case, I’m gonna go order some kippot and masks.