Friday, February 01, 2008

Jo's Naming: The Post

(So mostly this is going to be a serious and intense post about my child and religion, but the title is a little Spaceballs joke. I can't help myself.)

We had a breakfast for congregants, friends, and family before his naming, which was a fun way to socialize. My mom invited some of her old friends I hadn't seen since I was a child. Both of my parents came (my dad has now met Jo twice; he is really surprising me). A few friends came from out of town, including Jo's buddy Z. -- who turned one year old that day! -- and his other buddy Z, who is almost three and treated her stuffed dog to a ride in Jo's swing.

The naming itself didn't come until the Torah service, which is close to the end of the morning. Jo patiently sat through the entire service in our arms. He slept, nursed, and at times listened to the music. He liked the singing in utero, too. Nephew S. had a rough time because the ceiling fan wasn't turning. He really, really wanted it to and yelled about it every time my sister tried to carry him into the sanctuary.

After the Torah was read, but before it was returned to the ark, the three of us came up in front of the congregation. The time the scroll is out of the ark is sacred time, when we say prayers for people who are sick, people who have just come through any life-threatening situation, and for the good things that have happened in the past week. Our wonderful cantor sang a song to Jo called Duerme, Duerme (you can hear a sample by clicking on the link and scrolling down to the song "Duerme"). Co has loved the song since long before she knew me; we discovered only after Jo's birth (from a CD my mom gave us) that it was a Ladino lullabye. Then Co and I spoke about Jo's English name, his Hebrew name, and his (our) last name. We explained that he is named for Co's father John, her grandmother Angela, and my great-uncle George. The rabbi announced his official Hebrew name, which is First Name Middle Name ben (Hebrew for son) Lo v' (Hebrew for "and") Co. This is a big deal because some rabbis would consider Jo a convert (because his biological mother isn't Jewish), and converts to Judaism are considered "the children of Abraham and Sarah." That would make his name First Name Last Name ben Avraham v'Sara, erasing us as parents. However, because our rabbi is Reform, she follows a doctrine that says a child is Jewish if either parent is Jewish and the child is raised Jewish (ironically the doctrine is called Patrilineal Descent, since it enables the child of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother to be considered a Jew).

The rabbi gathered us under her tallis and she and the cantor sang a beautiful melody to the priestly blessing. I had tears in my eyes. Perhaps other Jews know how it is, to have that blessing said over you.

And I can't underestimate the power of welcoming my child into my religion. Planning the naming, we were preoccupied with how many bagels to order, what to wear, what Jo should wear, would my parents behave in front of each other (they mostly did). Sitting in the service with my boy in my arms, singing the ancient melodies, was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. I was also beside my father for much of the service, and hearing him sing along as I had throughout my childhood was equally powerful. I don't see my dad much, and almost never in a Jewish context. My daddy and my baby, the bookends of my Judaism.

(And here is where I admit how unfair it is that I get so teary about my dad, when it is my mom who is there for me at every turn, who I don't need to be nostalgic about because she was here a few days ago rocking Jo to sleep so Co and I could get some work done. But that is another post, if not perhaps a novel. Or a therapy session.)

I have been a part of this Jewish community, off and on, for over ten years. Co has been coming with me for several years now. So the warm rush of hugs and "mazel tov" and affection for us and for Jo....I'm having trouble putting it all into words. It was really, really special.

Many family and friends came as well, some to meet Jo for the first time. There was so, so much love and support for our family that day. I will hold it in my heart forever.

Here's Nephew S. (he and Jo were both in green sweaters):

And here's Jo hanging out with his Grandmom after the naming (showing some local pride):


The Fonaholics said...

This post was beautiful.. not so much the religion aspect but it makes me realise just how important naming a baby really is... Kim and i have been umming and ahhing about names for our "future" child... and whether to throw in my dads name as a first or middle name in memory to him.. my dads name is also my older brothers name, so it felt like too many in the family, but this post made me realise "family names" are a beautiful tradition...

Jen said...

Mazel tov, indeed! I am glad it was a wonderful experience.

We're not religious and this is the sort of thing I miss - that feeling of community and connectedness. And music is big, too. But it's not part of our life at this time, alas.

Melody said...

It sounds just beautiful. Jo was a blessed baby already, but it's a double-blessing to be welcomed into a community like this one.

I can't believe how much he's already changing! So much expression on his face. You can see him just drinking this all in.

oneofhismoms said...

OMG! I totally spaced! I'm so sorry. Would it make it any better if I told you that on Friday I went to a prep and never came back to get my class? I thought it was an hour later than it was and proceeded to eat my lunch. Luckily there was a push-in teacher who came and relieved the art teacher. I swear. My brain may as well be oatmeal at this point.

Waaah. I missed the naming.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad it went so well! He is so cute.
I chose Duerme Duerme for a chorus I once directed. Beautiful song.

fostermama said...

Crap, I lost my comment... :P

The naming was beautiful. I'm glad you guys loved it, too. I liked it better than our recent one for a few reasons, not that ours wasn't nice as well.

The thing that struck me was that your rabbi used Co's name as part of Jo's Hebrew name. Our rabbi wouldn't use my (non-Jewish) mother's name for me, only my (Jewish) father's. She says the name is one of those tribal things and only the Jewish descent is tracked. I say phooey on that, and I'm glad that your rabbi does too. Makes me wonder if I could argue the case with ours.

Lo said...

The name definitely is a tribal thing. But Co is his parent...perhaps our rabbi's personal life plays a role in her flexibility on this issue. Although another Reform, um, official, counted Co's name too.

(Our rabbi is "married" to a Catholic woman. We love that.)

gypsygrrl said...

it is things like this, that make me miss having a faith community in my life... [recently started a solemn novena to st jude at our local shrine and the church felt so comforting] thank you for sharing Jo's special day with all of us... and the pictures. LOVE the green-sweater one. i feel the need to smoosh his adorable lovely cheeks!

hugs to you all...

calliope said...

wow. What a beautiful post.
Thanks for letting us peek in on such a wonderful event.

Shelli said...

Siman Tov u'Mazal Tov!

*G* said...

Sounds like such a special time!

I love Jo's green sweater with the frog buttons. So cute!