Oh. My. Word. was the room packed. My synagogue has a huge sanctuary, and virtually every seat was taken. There were easily, easily, 200 people in the room; I wouldn't be surprised if there were as many as 300.
I was signed up to read Torah. It was my first time reading in that congregation, and it was also the most I had read at one go since my own Bat Mitzvah...and there were approximately 200 people in the room. I had forgotten what it feels like to get up in front of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah crowd and read Torah...it doesn't get any easier just because it's not your own special day. I was literally shaking.
I am happy to report, however, that I did a reasonable job. The Torah is written by hand, in ink, on a parchment scroll; per tradition, it is written without the vowels, punctuation marks, and chanting-system marks, so all of that has to be memorized beforehand by the reader. In the space of seventeen verses, I only needed to be corrected three times; two were word mistakes, and I put the end of a verse in the wrong place once. I'm sure most of the congregation couldn't tell, and even the people I know could, such as the Rabbi and gabbaim (people who proofread the Torah reader) seemed impressed and congratulated me...and the Rabbi mentioned me by full name in his announcements at the end of services, announcing that this was my first time reading Torah in his congregation, and that felt really cool.
As is typical at Bnei Mitzvah (plural of Bar Mitzvah or a mixed-gender group), Jewish weddings, etc. there were free kippot provided by the family for all who wanted, which is usually all the male guests and me. "Sam's" were the style my father has dubbed "Bar Mitzvah beanies:" large, made of cheap satin, with a cloth button at the top center. I almost decided I wouldn't take one, and once I had taken it I almost decided never to wear it, because of my father's disdain for the style.
Then I thought again. Primarily, I decided to let myself wear "Sam's" Bar Mitzvah kippah because it is a lovely color, a nice midnight blue. (This actually makes it my fourth blue one in a collection of 29; all but one, an embroidered silk by designer Yair Emanuel, were acquired for free. I have a navy blue suede from my high school graduation, a bright blue satin--but not big enough to be a "Bat Mitzvah beanie"--from the Bat Mitzvah of a girl we'll call "Leah," and now "Sam's".) Also, this kippah, printed inside with the name of the Bar Mitzvah boy and the date of the celebration, makes a nice souvenir of my first time reading Torah in that congregation, and how nicely it went.
I actually have "Sam's" Bar Mitzvah kippah on right now...I tend to like to wear new kippot as soon as possible after I get them. Also, it just goes so nicely with my outfit: black tights; royal blue, slightly stretchy, hits-below-the-knee skirt, and royal blue, red, purple, and pinkish plaid button-down shirt. I clipped the kippah in place with purple clips with plastic flowers on the ends, to match my shirt.
There is actually a special story behind the skirt I am wearing today; bear with me and permit me to tell it.
Last Spring, I went to the Orthodox-Jewish-run clothing store near my university for the first time. I had no use for their tops, and never will; I had, have, and will always have endless use for their skirts. Their price run high, so I only ever shopped there three times; that, however, is not the point of this story.
I went into the store last Spring for the first time, not knowing quite what I would find, committed to coming out with "something pink and something denim." I ended up getting the skirt I now refer to as my "short denim" (hits my knees; internal pockets made of blue flowered material; zipper up the back) for 40 dollars and a slightly stretchy, also slightly covering my knees, coral pink skirt of the same brand as the denim, for 25 dollars.
As soon as I stepped outside the store and started the walk back to my dorm, I regretted not getting the coral skirt in royal blue as well. When I went back in the Fall, I promised myself that if the store still had the slightly stretchy, knee-length skirts and I came in enough under budget, I would pick up my royal blue skirt.
On my Fall shopping trip, I picked out a green corduroy below-the-knee with pockets and a caramel-colored wool, A-line, back zip, also with pockets for everyday wear, as well as a slightly-more-golden caramel suede-ish (I'm sure from the price it wasn't real suede, but to this day I don't know what it is) for dressing up; I wore that last one for the first time the second day of Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year. As I headed to the register, I noticed a rack of the slightly stretchy warm-weather skirts. I didn't see the royal blue, but I did see a very pale brown I liked, so I picked that up too.
When I brought my pile up to the register, the woman who runs the store picked up my last skirt and said, "Medium? We have this in lots of colors..."
I of course decided to test my luck and ask for royal blue, she said yes, and at long last, I got my royal blue skirt! It is one of my favorites, primarily because I didn't get enough time to enjoy it before the weather turned cold in the Fall...but I am enjoying it now.
And I just remembered I told that whole story around the time when I bought it. Oops...a good story can always bear retelling.
Now, this is "ELSBETH," aging out in AUGUST. She has Down syndrome and "mental delays," though the second is a predictable result of the first.