Celebrating Simchas With Laughter, Love and Friendship

By Marla Cushing | Special for the AJT

The Girls Pictured from left to right: (Bat Mitzvah Date) (10-5-13.) Ilana Golomb, daughter of Maynav & Lawrence. Congregation Dor Tamid (11-2-13.) Leah Rothman, daughter of Jodi and Mike, Gesher L’Torah (1-11-14) Morgan Cushing daughter of Marla & Steve, CDT (1-25-14) Rachel Quinn, daughter of Samantha & Tim, GLT (2-8-14) Gabrielle Woodman, daughter of Hilary & Gregg, CDT (3-29-14) Aly Singer, daughter of Stacey and Andy, CDT (8-23-14) Lauren Weinser, daughter of Charla and Dave, CDT (9-6-14) Joey Goldman, daughter of Terri and Ricky, CDT/Camp Barney

My daughter became a bat mitzvah earlier this year.  As anyone in the Jewish community knows, this is an amazing accomplishment for our young adults and a tremendous source of pride and joy for every parent who watches their child lead the congregation and read from the Torah.  My daughter’s day was everything we all hoped it would be and it came and went faster than we would have liked.  But I am very fortunate because I experienced that anticipation, preparation, and teary-eyed pride and joy six times over the past 12 months.

When my daughter was four, we enrolled her in a Georgia Pre-K program.  I chose Knowledge Beginnings in Johns Creek, a private day care that was on my way to work.  Literally.  I passed it every day. It was even on the right side of the street.  Convenience was clearly my priority.  I could not possibly have imagined how fortuitous that choice would turn out to be.  In that class of 20 four year olds were six Jewish girls, including my own daughter.  The director of the school was Jewish (although I didn’t know that at the time) and so it attracted many Jewish families. Because they gave priority to the kids who had been enrolled in the daycare program, there were only 10 spots available for the 2005-2006 school year.  It was February 2005 and I had convinced my friend Samantha Quinn to put her daughter in the program too. We camped out beginning at 5:00 AM to make sure we got a spot.  Around 6:00 AM other moms started to show up.  Samantha is very outgoing and friendly and she immediately started talking to and befriending the other moms.  Not me.  I’m not sure if I even got up from my chair.  I wasn’t there to make friends.  I just wanted one of the 10 spots.

The mothers bonded, as Jewish moms will do, and the playdates began.  But even then I don’t think any of us could have predicted the outcome.  That these six girls (which somewhere along the way became eight), would remain BFFs despite the fact that they went to five different elementary schools and are currently in 8th grade at five different middle schools.  Or that the families of these eight girls would become such close friends.  Most of us do not have our own families in town.  But we have created a family nonetheless.  Birthday parties, Jewish holidays, vacations… all occasions… we celebrate the milestones together.  And this year, eight times, from October of 2013 through September of 2014, we witnessed seven beautiful girls, sitting in a front row at synagogue, watching and listening intently as the 8th girl became a bat mitzvah. And every time, each one of us, as parents of these beautiful girls, experienced the same pride and joy, shed tears of happiness, as eight times our girls became Jewish adults. Because watching each one of these girls was like watching your own.

And how amazing for these girls also, to learn how to share the spotlight.  To support and encourage.  To look out from the bimah and see your whole fan club, right there in front of you.  I think my daughter speaks for the group when she says, “I’ve known them for so long that we’ve literally been through every stage of our lives together. These girls are my entire life.   It is the most amazing friendship I could ever ask for.  I want to keep it that way forever.”

During that Pre-K school year, I can remember one of the moms, Maynav Golomb, always sending out emails … “Its the teacher’s birthday – let’s have the kids make cards”.  Or “Let’s send in flowers for Valentine’s Day.” I can remember thinking, “Who is this woman and why does she have to create extra work for me?”  As a working mom who also traveled frequently, I didn’t have the time, energy or frankly the desire to make an extra stop for flowers on my way home from the office or the airport.  Well, guess who now is one of my dearest, dearest friends and the one who organizes Rosh Hashana dinners, and Passover Seders, and fun day trips when there is no school.  Who is the one who has, by example, taught me to be more giving, more thoughtful, and how to be a better friend.  Maynav. She is probably the most responsible for keeping these girls (and our families including 10 younger siblings) together all of these years.  And likely for all of the years to come.

And so to cap off an incredible, special and joyous year, we put these girls back in their dresses and took them to a fancy restaurant for what we affectionately call the “Eight Dresses Dinner”.  Eight stunning young ladies, eight very proud moms, and eight sparkly dresses.  From a single-minded decision came an unexpected gift filled with laughter, love and friendship.  Life doesn’t get much better than this.