Rosh Hashanah is over.
In the parking lot, on my way into the synagogue, I stopped to talk to some congregants and I was being all professional and grown up and they were asking if this service would be very different from the one the day before, and I was explaining how we were doing a participatory Torah study and it should be very engaging and fun and then a bug landed on my shirt and everyone saw it and went “Oh!” I played it cool and laughed like it didn’t even matter because bugs don’t scare me because I’m too professional for that. I nonchalantly brushed it, which caused it to fall down my shirt, into the place where my bra was trying its very best but still mostly failing to give me some cleavage. The bug had lots of little legs, and wings, and they were all moving at once.
“Oh no!” everyone said. And then they paused politely.
“It should be really nice,” I said. “We’re chanting the morning blessings to this lovely new melody.”
“It just went down your shirt,” said a kind, stately gentleman.
“I know,” I said, smiling brightly. “Um.”
I turned around and leaned over and pulled my shirt down, and I prayed that no one was looking out of any of the sanctuary windows at that moment, because they would’ve seen a lot of cantorial bra.
(the traditional Rosh Hashanah treat, no bugs allowed. source)
It made me grin, thinking about it in the middle of the silent amidah, where you can pray to yourself or read the traditional text (I never read the text, I still have no idea what it says, even though I’ve seen it hundreds and hundreds of times) midway through the service. I almost laughed aloud.
I get nervous about performing these services, even though I’ve been doing them for years. I hate that I get nervous. I think I should be more confident. I should revel in it. I should love the feel of everyone’s eyes on me. I should throw back my head and sing with my whole heart. I should lean into the mic. I should improvise with some little twirly things, like Christina Aguilera. I should probably lift my hands up and start gesturing.
I do, I do. I throw my head back sometimes. But sometimes I’m thinking, shit shit shit, you missed a word, what is wrong with you?? You should know this whole thing by memory already! Don’t mess up again! Oh god, here comes that long part with all the weird consonants. If you mess this up, you’ll probably just stop, and then there will be this really long, horrible silence, and everyone will be looking at you and thinking that you’re an idiot who can’t do your job and the board will already be thinking about holding auditions for a better cantor and you will ALWAYS ALWAYS remember this day as the worst, most humiliating day of your life. Shit shit shit.
I reminded myself that my friend just had her second baby. Yeah, second. She has two kids now. OK, so we don’t talk that much anymore. She’s way too busy. But I think about her a lot, like a dork, and how different from mine her life is. And how I can’t imagine being her, but I’m sort of jealous. And how she just had a BABY and I’m getting nervous about singing some Hebrew.
“You looked so grown up up there,” said my dad, after. He looked a little teary.
“I told him you’re still pretty immature,” said my mom, cracking herself up.
“True,” I said. “It’s all an illusion.”
But it’s not. I’m an adult now. I know. Not because of my job where I lead the congregation. Not because of my breasts which have reached their apologetic-looking but final stage of development. But because of something I just caught myself doing for the first time, over Rosh Hashanah: talking to kids like a lame grownup.
Yup. I did the thing that all grownups do. This is how it went:
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