Virulent Word of Mouse

December 7, 2014

My Daughter, Your Sparkler, On her Bat-Mitzvah

Filed under: We call it life — Shane Greenstein @ 9:09 pm

My dear Ilana Shira,

Before teenage life leads you to be too embarrassed to be seen with me, I would like to take a moment to discuss who you are and what choices you will face.

sparklerYou are distinctive. If each of us has a delicate light inside of us, then you were born with a sparkler. It is not visible, but if it were, it would NOT be a roman candle or an ostentatious fireworks display with the cannons booming.

Rather, your light resembles the sparklers that chase the moon on Independence Day. It is more like an endless trick birthday candle that fizzles and flits unexpectedly left and right.

Though small, its effects are visible.

I can see your sparkler when you smile and when you dance, especially when you imitate a Whirling Dervish by circling on the kitchen tiles. I also see it when you delight in figuring out the math problem of the day, or show me a draft of your essay for school. I also can hear it when you sit in the backseat of the car, oblivious to everything else, and hum.

Many people have seen the effect of your sparkler on the soccer field. You dribble for a few steps,DSC_1439
focus, and pass to a teammate with a precise and selfless touch. It is wonderful to watch.

Your sparkler also informs your exceptional sense of fashion. It may come as a surprise to you, but socks do not have to contain silly patterns and bright colors to function properly. Your delightful playfulness with clothing will eventually cost your mother and I dearly, but please ignore our sighs. If beautiful clothes make the sparkler shine more brightly, then wear it.

If I might be allowed to say it, I also hope you learn someday that a true friend also can love you in a plain white t-shirt. Just saying.

t-shirtYour sparkler appeared at the service today when you smiled, and when you sang the words of the Torah, and when you put your light voice to the Haftorah. You connected your sparkler to all those who have come before you.

Your mom and I are very proud of you.

Here is what I am trying to say. Your sparkler can inspire. Have the courage to act on its inspiration. Put it into words. If you want to offer a witty pun or any other warm and caring remark then do so. Give a smile to a friend, and offer a greeting, or a soft touch on the shoulder. A big gesture is also ok, like a hug or a high five. And do me a favor: don’t hold back in my presence.

Speaking of favors, it would be nice if – from time to time – you brought your sparkler to the breakfast table. Again, just saying.White cup of coffee isolated

Now for the avuncular advice: Your sparkler will burn more brightly the more you genuinely use it. As with dancing, practice makes action smoother. So use your sparkler when it does not matter; that will help you hear it during the moments when its inspiration can help you.

At the same time, using a sparkler often is not the same as using it well. It is evanescent and vulnerable, so it is ok to let it rest. It can be especially difficult to keep lit in the face of sustained adversity.

Hey-JudeBy the way, it is especially ok to let it dim a bit after sleepless nights with a baby. Again, just saying.

Finally, you will find in life that all sorts of behaviors and circumstances seem to be designed to discourage you from dancing in the direction your sparkler leads. There is no general principle to use, but please keep in mind that line from Hey Jude, “It’s a fool who plays it cool… by making his world a little colder.” You don’t have to be cold or cool.

Here is my biggest wish for you: I hope that someday you will trust someone enough so they see champagne_glassesyour sparkler in all its depth. Show them affection. Maybe you will get a close look at their light.

Let’s drink a toast to sparklers, and to the dance of life. L’chiam.





  1. Lovely lovely words Shane. Mazel tov ! Jonathan

    Sent from my iPhone

    Comment by Haskel, Jonathan — December 9, 2014 @ 4:30 am | Reply

  2. As the father of two girls, now in their 20s, I found your letter to your daughter, not just warm and joyous but timeless in the advice (or nudges) embedded within. Bravo!

    Comment by ksrikrishna — July 15, 2019 @ 8:38 pm | Reply

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