Princess' morah, who has been teaching first grade for 25 years, called three times to make sure that I was coming. First, I decided not to come because of the music, but when she called, alarm in her voice, I asked my rav and was told that I could go.
The second time she called to tell me that if I couldn't come, she would make a section of the party without music for me. Touched, I guiltily told her that I could come, and I'm sorry for not telling you earlier.
The third time she called was because Princess had told her that I would be leaving early since a play that I was directing had opening night that very same night. She called to make sure that I would not be doing that. My heart sank--this was going to be tricky--but I promised I would stay.
After all, the siddur party started at 4:00 and the play was at 8. How long could the siddur party possibly be?
As the siddur party sang its way into the third hour, I experienced a not entirely unpleasant out-of-body experience. I floated above the 40 singing girls in their costumes of ruffly blue, and the music teacher who was blasting prerecorded music so that the singing girls were only faintly heard, and the morah, who was gesturing to the singing girls to clutch their siddurim tight and close their eyes in a mimicry of devotion.
Part of the floating me was a little hysterical at the time. Did I mention it was already three hours long with no end in sight? And that I was directing a play, and opening night was in, like, now?
And that it was an hour past Princess' bedtime, and she was yawning onstage and her cheeks were bright pink. She was halfway to her second wind, I could tell, but for now,she looked like she wanted to burst into tears.
Another part of the floating me was kvelling. My little girl, all grown up. I can't believe it. I had just spent four hours pushing, getting her out into this world, yesterday.
The rest of the floating me was eyeing the food set up all around us many, many, many (many) hours ago. I was starving. Did I mention I was directing a play? I hadn't eaten since breakfast. Yesterday.
I came back down and into my own body with a thunk. Hunger can do that, I think.
This is crazy! I looked at the professional videographer that a parent had hired, and all of the grandmothers (Tova's mother and mother-in-law flew in from America for this, my seatmate had whispered to me). Everyone seemed to be smiling.
What is wrong with me that this entire spectacle seems like one long overdone Israeli tzedaka campaign? The overly dramatic songs. The long winded speeches. The slideshow with pictures of the Bais Hamikdash in flames.
Another hour past and the girls filed offstage to accept their due hugs, praise, and candy, not in that order. I waited in line to thank the morah for all her hard work. My coat was on. I had to dash to the play the second we finished talking.
The morah was dancing with the girls as they wound their way offstage. I met her eyes. Her eyes were filled with tears.
"I'm so glad you could make it!"
"I had to ask my rav," I told her in my best Hebrew, "but he said that I could--"
"Yes! Because it is very important!" A tear wound its way down her cheek. "It is very important."
I pressed her hand and flew to the door. And was startled to a standstill at a few thoughts.
It's a different culture. Just because I don't understand it doesn't make it wrong.
Princess has a siddur now! She is so big!
The morah was crying. Because I came, and it is so important that I was able to come. I put a hand to my cheek. Inexplicably, I was crying.