My parents are known to those around the globe as Ruthy and Big Al.
Big Al celebrates his birthday the day after mine.
You think he’d change it up every now and again, but noooooo…
In fact, there are countless members of my family – immediate and extended – who all celebrate their birthdays within the week of mine.
In further fact, most members of my family (up until the generation after me) share birthdays with other members.
It’s like this sick obsession we seem to have.
To the point that we all knew my brother would marry his now wife, when we learnt she shared Ruthy’s birthday.
This year, in another fitting-like-a-puzzle-piece-into-Tash’s-life moment, two things happened:
One of my oldest (as in, I’ve known her for the longest time, NOT inferring that she is old!) and dearest friends gave birth to her third child in the last five minutes of my birthday…
My father’s birthday marked the something-big-th anniversary of his Bar Mitzvah.
(I know how many years it was, but for certain professional reasons he has asked me to omit this figure from public consumption…)
I can hear your question – “How do these things fit together like a puzzle piece, crazy Rabbit?”
Great question, thinkers!
But quieten down – I was getting there…
Your answer can be found in the sermon my father gave at his very special commemorative Bar Mitzvah #2 this weekend just past.
He used a quote from Rabbi Ritchie Moss:
(And yes, he was talking about members of the “Jewish family”, but I’m taking some poetic licence here..)
You can either be born into the family or join by choice. But once you are in, you are family, no matter what. If you break the rules, you are still a member, because family is family.
Big Al was using this quote to illustrate his point about the Jewish family story being one he was born into and one which he remains a character within, no matter the turns his life takes.
It’s a great sermon.
One I’d ask him to share with you all.
Or maybe if you care, I’ll post it on his behalf another time.
But the point that I’m making is that this brand new baby (the best gift anyone can give this Auntie Tasha for her birthday) was born into my family.
We are not related by blood.
Although, to be fair, neither are any of my actual nieces or nephews…
But he is my family.
His parents and sisters already know that they’re mine for life – like it or not!
But his birth is the perfect way for his family to be sealed into my heart.
To join the ranks of my family.
I’ve spoken before about my Coyotes being my family.
As is my Pillow-woman.
And as I write more and more of these posts, I realise things about myself.
I realise that when I elevate a person to the status of family member in my life, that’s it.
Good luck removing yourself from that grip.
Because that’s how families are.
Whether you see them all the time, or speak to them, or not, they are there.
In your thoughts.
In everything you do.
You think about how your life affects them.
How your behaviour reflects on them.
And that to me is today’s lesson:
I’m not going to lie.
I have copied this theme.
I’ve plagiarised it.
Not the lesson, but the theme.
There’s been a fantastic speech circulating around Australia this week – a speech given by an amazing woman whom I not only have the privilege to know, but whom I admire as a role model.
You can read her speech here.
It’s not in any way relevant to today’s post, any more than the fact that it shares my theme.
But it is a speech that is important to read.
So, in the words of a well-known Aussie, “Do yourself a favour!”
Back to the Shul of Tash lesson though…
My family set-up is an interesting one.
It is one that taught me early on that being related to someone by blood is not the be all and end all of familial relationships.
That your heart has room for any number of people.
And that they can love you just as much in return.
I consider myself lucky to have been taught this lesson so early on in my life.
And, as I’ve wondered why so many people struggle to care for other humans around them – even in a general sense – it has struck me that it’s in part thanks to this fact that I’ve had a mind and heart open to other people.
I’m not for a minute pretending or purporting to be some kind of saint.
I do not love everyone.
I definitely do not.
But, I like to think that I have the ability to see things from others’ perspectives.
And that opens the heart.
Or maybe this is me blowing smoke out of my bum again.
The point remains, we should learn to love.
Love those in our family.
Love those we treat as family.
And love those around us.
To love isn’t necessarily to like.
In fact, when you love someone, there’s plenty of permission not to like them or some of the things they do.
But you still love them.
And sometimes it’s nice to show that!
Whether that’s by giving birth to a child on their birthday…
Or by calling them…
Or by writing them an email reminding them they matter.
Happy birthday, Big Al.
Happy birthday, baby boy.
Happy birthday everyone else who celebrated in the last week!