It is Jewish custom to have a naming ceremony for baby girls, as a way of welcoming them into the world and family. Molly’s naming ceremony was held on her two-week birthday, and we had family and friends over to celebrate her! Here are some pictures:
Aunt Jodie feeding Molly before the ceremony.
Uncle Dan and Molly
Dad and Mama reading a prayer for Molly.
Papa talking to Molly about her namesake
Molly with her Nana and Grand Nana
Aunt Sarah and Uncle Simon watching the ceremony
During the naming ceremony, Lee, my dad, and I all spoke to Molly about different things. My dad talked about his Mom, who Molly is named after. Lee and I talked about all the things we hoped for her. I want to capture our words here so we can always be reminded of what we said.
Papa’s words to Molly:
You’ve heard from your mom about her Nana Millie, and she was truly everything your mom remembers. Now it’s time to hear from a son’s perspective.
I was so overcome by joy and sadness when told you were going to be named after my mother. Sadness because almost fourteen years later I still miss her and talk to her routinely, and joy because of the person she was and the traits her name holds for you.
Before I tell you about her, a word about this ceremony. Three days ago was the yahrzeit for my mother. Three days from now will be the fourteenth anniversary of her death on the secular calendar. The significance of your continuing the circle of life under those circumstances is more than a little overwhelming for me.
But who was Millie? First of all, although her birth certificate says she was Mildred, for her youth and the time we spent in Brooklyn she was mostly Mindl’ to family and Minnie to friends. As a matter of fact every one of my cousins still refer to her as Aunt Min. But when the family moved to Staten Island, for reasons I hope you never get to experience, she became the more “American” Millie. When I was growing up, I could always tell where somebody first met her by what name they used. And since you would have heard your mom call her Nana Millie, Molly is an absolutely perfect name for you.
Unbeknownst to your parents, when I was watching you yesterday we went outside, and I did what I did with both your Aunt Jodie and your mom after they were born. I borrowed a page from Alex Haley, held you up to the sky to observe the universe, and as Omoro told Kunta Kinte, I asked you to “Behold the only thing greater than yourself.” In a nutshell, that’s how I remember my mother. She was a person who always tried to tell me that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do if I wanted to, except for contact sports, of course. After all, she was a Jewish mother! Seriously. But was she always that kind of person? Absolutely not. She was raised as many if not most first generation American women whose parents were from the shtetl were – to be a mother and housewife. And heaven forbid she didn’t get married right out of high school, then she could be a secretary while looking for a husband. Well, my mother married Poppa Izzy, who I’ll tell you about another time, pretty much right after high school, and as soon as they could afford to they started a family. And that was okay enough, for a while. But when I was about one and one-half, her mother died from pancreatic cancer, and it had a profound effect on my mom. From the time my grandmother was diagnosed, my mom was convinced that she too might die any day from that disease. And so she began to live every day as though it could be her last, yet did so not with dread, but rather with joy and unbridled enthusiasm. She went to work part-time, both to earn money and just to get out of the house, and as soon as I was old enough to become a latchkey kid for my sister and myself, she got a full-time job. To make it work for all, she taught me to cook, clean, help do laundry and iron, which I guess made her something of a women’s libber before there was a name for it. Eventually she ended up working on Wall Street in the back office of a small company. She became interested in doing more and better, and self-taught everything she needed to learn to become a licensed stockbroker. She never let anything get in her way, and she made sure her children and her grandchildren understood that they shouldn’t either. And she and my father enjoyed life, every day. They had just gotten back from celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary in Florence and Rome when she began feeling unwell and was soon diagnosed with what she lived in fear of for 46 years. Three months later she was gone. But from the moment she had her “AHA!” moment, she operated under the principle that life is for living. So Molly, that is the real legacy you are inheriting. Since your Great Nana Millie isn’t here to tell you herself, let being her namesake be your everlasting reminder of what she would be offering you in person. She would quote Dr. Seuss and ask you “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” She would tell you to love who you are and always be true to yourself. She’d remind you to be kind to your family and others, and help them if they need help as best you can. She’d laugh and say you should suffer fools gladly by gently helping them see the errors of their ways, and say that if they don’t, walk away without looking back and don’t succumb to them. She’d probably tell you to try not to cringe every time you hear someone say, “good golly, Miss Molly!”. She’d remind you to treat your parents well and recognize and tolerate the fact that they’ll be growing and learning with you. And she would tell you, as I also now am, to call me, Skype me, tell me everything and make sure we visit each other often. Molly, know how much you are loved both here on earth and from paradise. Welcome!!!
Dad’s words to Molly:
“We are this much closer to meeting our child,” Molly, this is one of several affirmations that I wrote for your mama to help her stay positive while she was in labor with you. You arrived on March 3rd and since then our lives have been a whirlwind of excitement, surprises, and happiness. You take after your mother in this way and I couldn’t be more blessed than to have the two of you as my family.
“Normal is different for everyone,” this is another affirmation. It was to remind your mom that the process of labor has many twists and turns, it is unique for each birth. I want you to know that as you grow up, this affirmation should guide you as well. We are all unique and there is no right way to be, so be yourself and forget everything else. Unfortunately you will also learn that there are those in the world who do not believe this affirmation, they will judge, they will discriminate, they will not understand that normal is subjective. These are the people you should avoid in life, they will offer you nothing useful.
Another affirmation was, “shoulders down, stay grounded,” this was to remind your mom to relax and let go of worry, tension, and fear. I wish this for you as well. As you move through life, try your best to make the best of everything. It will be hard at times but worry only creates more worry; fear only creates more fear. So remember that happiness creates more happiness. Even when things seem to be horribly wrong, a positive outlook makes it possible to survive these situations.
Along those lines another affirmation is “stay calm, find your groove, and breathe.” In life there will be stress, there will be hard work, there will be pain, and there will be unanswerable questions. Take them in stride, greet them with open arms knowing that these are all things that will pass and for every horrible thing there is something amazing waiting for you. For every frown there will be a smile and for every tear there will be a laugh. We can’t control the ups and downs but you can control how you choose to let them affect you. Remember to smile, remember to breathe, and it will work itself out.
Speaking of work, there is lots of work to do out here in the world. For your mama in labor it was “work with a purpose,” the purpose was to bring you safely to us. As you grow and learn, and see, and think, you will find all kinds of things that don’t make sense. Don’t be afraid to try to change them. Don’t be afraid to speak out. Don’t be afraid to explore. Don’t be afraid to offer your hand to someone in need. Don’t be afraid of work with a purpose, it is the most rewarding work you can complete.
“We are all here to make sure everyone is ok,” I wrote this to remind your mom she was surrounded by a team of caring people, who were at her side through all her labor pains. I want you to know that we, your parents, your family, and your friends, we are all here to make sure you are ok. You are not alone, you are surrounded by uncountable experiences, unmeasurable advice, and unending love. We all will make sure that you are ok, healthy, safe, and loved.
So now you’re here! We’re all so excited to see and meet the person you will become. We are all ready to go out and share in your adventures. We are ready to be at your side when you need us. We are ready to teach you what we know. We are ready to show you all that we can. We are ready to try to make sense of the world together. Which reminds me of another affirmation, “GO TEAM SPRINGER!” We are ready to hold your hand and walk down the path together.
Mama’s words to Molly:
We are here today to welcome you into our family. You’re surrounded by people in our lives who are very important to your dad and me; and these people are going to be a big part of your life too. Everyone is here today to celebrate you and to send you their love as you start your life. Your dad and I also want to use this ceremony as an opportunity to welcome your family into their new roles – as grandparent’s, aunts, and uncles – it is everyone’s first time in their new roles and we are all so excited.
You’re named after your great grandmother, Millie, who your Papa is going to tell you all about, and your Dad is going to talk about how we finally got to meet you. That leaves me to talk about you, little girl. Just like everyone here has a new role, this is my first time being a mom. I want to tell you a couple of things that I’ve held close as I’ve thought about what it means to be your mom.
Molly, there’s no question that you’re going to be a smart kid. You’re going to learn so quickly and you’re going to have so many questions. There are going to be times in your life when you ask me and your dad hard questions – questions we don’t know the answers to, and questions where we don’t even know where to start. You’re going to learn about the Jewish religion, and the things that have happened to our people because of our religion. You’re going to learn that there are a lot of ugly truths to humanity and to history. There are things that are going to be hard to learn about and even harder to understand. When you learn these hard truths, you’re going to get upset and have questions and I’m not going to know how to answer you in a way that makes you feel better. This is a fact and it makes me sad, because I’m your mama – my job is to protect you and keep you safe and happy. But sometimes, little girl, there are things that are going to happen and I won’t be able to help you understand them because I don’t understand them myself. But, there are also some truths that I know, and those truths are what I want to share with you today; and that your dad and I will do our best to remind you of when you get scared or sad or upset, and when you run into questions that we don’t know how to answer.
The most important truth I want to tell you is that your dad and I love each other fiercely. We are far from perfect, but we make an effort every day to be kind to each other; to appreciate each other; to be on the same team. We promise that we will make this same effort with you. This is our first time being parents and we’re going to have to work together to figure it all out, so please try and be patient with us – we will make mistakes, but we will always try our best.
There are other truths that I believe, truths that I will remind you over and over again when you are scared or angry or confused. There is always more good than bad in the world. Sometimes you need to look for the silver lining, but it’s always there. If they’re given the chance, people are mostly good. Sometimes that seems unfathomable, but I promise you it’s the truth. You can do anything you set your mind to. No matter how daunting; no matter how many doors seem to close in front of you, if you want something bad enough and if you are willing to work hard enough, you can have anything in this life you want. You have our support. We are rooting for you. You are so new, and you already have so many people in your life who love you to bits – people who want what’s best for you and who will do whatever they can to keep you safe and happy. Sometimes your dad and I won’t be enough for you, and that’s okay. You have all these people in your life who you can turn to when your dad and I just don’t understand, or when we do something you think isn’t fair, or when you just need someone to hear you out. We won’t be mad and we won’t be hurt – that’s what family is for.
And, the most important truth of all, one that your dad and I, and your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and everyone here will remind you over and over and over again for your entire life – you are so very loved, little girl.
The ceremony was a beautiful reminder of how much love one little girl can bring about. We had family fly in from all over the country and Lee and I were so grateful that they, and our good friends, could be with us on Molly’s special day!