Today is our eldest grandson’s third birthday.
I remember when he was born three years ago; we’d just sat down in a local theater to see a Shakespeare play. I was about to turn off my phone and noticed I’d missed a call from our son Jacob. He and his wife were living in Israel and expecting a baby any minute. We managed to stay until intermission and by then I couldn’t sit still anymore; I couldn’t wait to start calling family and friends.
Shimon Yashaya (Simon Isaiah) was born on Saturday, on the Jewish Shabbat. Our son couldn’t call us until after sundown. So by the time we got the news, it was already Sunday his time. We made our plans and arrived in Israel on Tuesday and went straight to the hospital.
The family moved to New Jersey the following March. Though I loved visiting Israel—I’d been there several times since both boys began studying there in 2005-I’m happy everyone is home. And especially now that there are grandchildren.
I try to see SY every week, when I pick him up from nursery school. We have about two hours together before his dinner, bath and bedtime. We go to the park, read stories, build with blocks, cook or bake, and engage in all sorts of pretend play that usually involves toy trucks and cars.
Reliving childhood by observing the grandkids’ development is truly a gift. I seem to remember little of my own kids’ early years, though my 82-year-old mother recalls many details. Raising kids is hard work: time consuming and tiring. It’s a busy time; rushing to activities and appointments; it’s rewarding and flies by fast.
On Sunday, his parents held a birthday celebration that included his first haircut, or “upsherin,” which is Yiddish for “cut off.” His silky, blonde shoulder-length locks would be cut and donated to charity.
He greeted us at the door very excited that he was “all dressed up” with a new shirt and a tie. He entertained his two great-grandparents, four grandparents, two great-aunts, one great-uncle, two uncles, two aunts, and one of his first cousins by playing his Suzuki violin and singing.
When it was time for the haircut, he sat patiently on a stool while everyone who wanted to trimmed a little bit and then his mother buzzed his head.
I remember an email exchange I had with a blogger friend who wanted to know what “he’d done” that is special about turning three. It’s not what he’s done so far, but what the expectations are going forward. At three, he begins to wear a kippah or yamulke, required by Jewish law, as a sign of respect and awareness of a higher entity. He’s also wearing a little “tzitzit,” a square poncho-like garment under his clothes, that has fringe on each corner. The fringe- comprised of strings and knots- represent the Torah’s 613 do’s and don’ts, or commandments. He’ll also begin learning Hebrew and studying Torah.