Queens became Latino and then Asian, and Hebrew school shrunk to a graduating class of two, myself and a frail girl named Bayla. I was, nevertheless, a regular attendee of Jr. Congregation, where I sat in the back with my cool older friend Jill and giggled at our unfortunate shaliach tzibur, who wore large glasses and had no thumbs. I won the Top Student award; my classmate was crowned Salutatorian. Because I was a girl and we were Orthodox, a Bat Mitzvah was out of the question. My mother believed that I deserved at least a few savings bonds to commemorate this six-year ordeal, so insisted they make up some sort of ceremony instead. They called it a Bat Torah, and Bayla and I got to share the leading of services on a Sunday morning. (Years later, I recognized this as Shacharit; never, during any of those six hours each week, did I learn what it was called.) I sang the Ashrei prayer, which was very exciting, and offered a speech written entirely by Rabbi N. I recall that it contained the word "equipage," something to do with horses. My mother didn't understand the speech, either, but the rabbi insisted that the occasion was too serious for the words of a 12-year-old, so we went along with it.
Despite my outfit of orange hot pants and a satin blouse, which my father didn't like one bit but had no say in, since my parents had divorced by then, everyone was very proud, and so was I. After the final thank you note was written for the last Cross pen set, and all the cold cuts consumed, I didn't set foot in a synagogue again until college.