(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):