Barging in on my terribly serious discussions of Yom Kippur, jewels, and poppy seeds to announce something a little cheerier: my cousins just had a baby girl! For the majority of people in this world who do things like converge each summer at national parks with a hundred others in matching T-shirts bearing their last names, a new cousin is not such a big deal. But the average age of my living relatives is about 70 and although I have very many aunts and uncles, they all happen to be, well, dead. I'm not trying to sound morbid, but I do--within the bounds of reason--consider them as much a part of my family as the ones who still get a New Year's card. Since the formerly corporeal tend not to produce heirs, however, a new baby is a big deal. When I discovered these cousins about five years ago (long, wonderful story having to do with my tallit), I felt like I had been given the passport to a new and native country. Strangers, yet so familiar--and they knew more about my aunts and uncles, and my parents, than I ever thought I'd learn. I loved them the moment we met.
This particular cousin was fervently secular until a year ago, when he discovered Orthodoxy, met his basherte (soulmate), and got married--and is now a dad. A lot for a dozen months, but everyone, including his parents, are ecstatic--shellshocked, but very happy. The baby naming is this coming Shabbat, at a synagogue right in my neighborhood. I do not relish spending the morning behind a mechitzah, nor being denied the right to wear a tallit or be counted in a minyan, but it's no big deal for a few hours out of my life. When in Rome, etc. And I'm honored, as always, to be invited into their world. Next Shabbat I'll once again be in foreign territory, at the Bat Mitzvah of the daughter of dear friends. Their synagogue is sort of halfway egalitarian, an interesting concept I do not understand in the least. I'll bring my tallit, but be prepared to stow it under the humash.
I do know that I'll experience symptoms of withdrawal after missing two consecutive Shabbat morning services at my synagogue. They'll probably have to pry me out of the seat when I show up the following week.