Today was my last bat mitzvah for this academic year.
After much dithering, my pupil agreed to come to morning minyan on Thursday to lay tefillin. But that didn't work out at all well; her mother didn't manage to get out of the house in time, and they arrived so late that all the honours had already been assigned. Not surprisingly, the poor girl was in floods of tears; there aren't many things more devastating for a teenager than to have your parent deliver you late so you miss something you want to do and are humiliated in public. I tried to smooth things over, but I don't know how much I succeeded.
Then this morning, I completely failed to get out of bed and out of the house in time. I arrived before the service started, but only just, and not with the half hour margin I'd planned on to reassure nervous bat mitzvah girl and panicking mother, and check with the gabbaim that all the practical stuff was in order. The reason for this is that I've spent the past two nights staying up late chatting to my beau, which I really couldn't afford to do with hard deadlines for getting up in the morning. (Yesterday was an adult education group who showed up in the lab at 9 to see what real science is like; they were fun, but I was running on adrenalin and obviously crashed later in the day.) Normally we are far more sensible about this sort of thing, and this week was not a good time to pick to lose our resolve.
Pupil had a major attack of nerves before the start of the service, she was rushing around saying "no, no, I can't do it, don't make me, I'm going to die!" I said she couldn't really back out at that stage, but that since we were leading jointly, I'd cover anything she didn't feel up to and nobody would be any the wiser (obviously, the congregation didn't know which bits we'd planned for her to do). This scheme worked entirely well; I started out leading some of the bits she was supposed to do, and that gave her a chance to collect herself and join in competently and smoothly later on. She had a lot of family present, and they practically mobbed me after the service to tell me how wonderful it was. In fact, several people commented how amazing it was that such a young girl was so calm and confident and professional in front of a big crowd! So I'm not proud of my timing, but I'm proud of getting the pupil to the point where she could enjoy the major achievement of jointly leading her own bat mitzvah service, even though she is generally quite shy. And I'm even moderately proud of the way I handled the service; it went smoothly, and people seemed to find meaningful.
The family invited me to join them for a sort of early high tea in the Quaker meeting house. I latched on to a group of Danish cousins to walk over there, and they had some kids at the age to be more interested in technology than culture, so we detoured to see the sluice gate that allows ships to cross from Mälaren into the Baltic. Not only had I not known the sluice gate was there, I had entirely failed to work out that the area called Slussen is not just a random place name, but named after the sluice. The party itself was very nice, quiet and informal and just a lovely, appropriate family get together. I got a bit bombarded with questions, because about half the guests are from an Orthodox background and wanted to know all about Progressive Judaism, and the other half are mostly secular and wanted to know all about religion in general. Even when I'm dizzy with sleep dep and emotional exhaustion, I enjoy that kind of thing.
The mother and daughter very kindly gave me a present. They explained that they'd argued about what to give me, and compromised by giving me both things! Mother's present was a leather bracelet of traditional Sami (what used to be called Lapp) work, which is a very lovely thing to have, but daughter was entirely correct that I don't wear jewellery very often, especially not on my hands. Her present was exactly to my taste, a shiny purple glass bowl; I'm impressed and touched that she is sharp enough to have figured out what would most please me based on seeing me for a couple of hours a week in class.
I hope I can find some more pupils for next year, otherwise I'm going to really miss the teaching!