I spent a wonderful morning at a lovely affair -- the bat mitzvah of a young woman I have known since she was born, if not before. The food was too filling, the coffee was poured liberally and the speeches got me thinking. The next set of speeches I figure I will have to deliver will be at my kids' weddings. No one wants to hear me pontificate at a sweet 16 or a graduation and I don't anticipate any other important life events till then. And the host with the most this morning commented on how he started his speech 8 days before the big day. That's not enough, I thought. So I decided to start writing wedding speeches now. Here's my logic.
I have lots to say. I am a font of wisdom and everyone should be taking notes whenever I open my mouth, even if just to yawn. Especially if just to yawn -- the profundity of my yawning is legend and should not be taken lightly. If I write this now and then, god forbid, something dire happens to me, and this speech is delivered, I will come off as having been prescient and that will cause my stock to rise from beyond the grave. Imagine how spooked all the guests will be when they hear a speech written years ago because I was concerned that I wouldn't be at the big day. "Ooooh" they'll all whisper, "It's like he knew the future or something." Well, I don't, but if the rumor that I am psychic is to be propagated, then so be it. Please throw money at my children in my honor or I'll haunt you via a blog post from the other side.
So I have been working on the speech for the kid who gets married first. It will need to be tweaked to connect to the Torah portion of the week of the wedding (unless I can include the Torah portion I want, now, and then guilt the kid into getting married on my schedule. That'd be sweet) and I will have to insert the proper daughter's name in it. And I may have to insert some current event type reference in there to show that this is not a prewritten speech but you and I will know that this was developed over many years. So here it is -- and from this point on, I'm gonna have to hit the "serious" button. So the yucks are over jimbo. Move along.
Kid, this is big. This is it. The day that you enter into a covenant to create a new house, a new home and a new identity. The day you will go from trying to avoid all my speeches to trying to solicit my advice and the day when I go from being an annoying father figure to a wizened role model. So I'd like to shift into the proper role by giving you some advice and have it not be in the form of a lecture which you half listen to while you check your phone and think evil thoughts about why I am grounding you again. I'd like to tell you about the key to happiness.
You may not know it but I am generally deliriously happy. I keep it a secret because I don't want to make everyone else feel bad. But the fact is, I've got it made. A while back, I stumbled onto the secret to happiness and I have been cashing in ever since. In this room full of doctors and lawyers and clergy members, I would like to reveal that secret because I can conveniently invoke confidentiality from all the professionals here so that they may not divulge my secret after they leave. And for you who are not in careers which demand confidentiality, please take and sign the non-disclosure agreement folded into the bencher and return it as you leave. Otherwise, please submit to a lobotomy. Either is fine.
Look around. Look at your family. Look at your friends. Look at my friends. But don't let them know you are looking. That's just weird. But look at them without looking like you are looking at them. These, my child, are quality people. That's the secret. Surround yourself with the kind of people who make you smile, who make you think, who make you love and who make you want to do all those things more. Surround yourself with people you would choose to hang out with if you didn't happen to be getting married today. Surround yourself with people whom you like and appreciate for who they are right now and who make you want to be a better person every day. I hope that as a father, I have been a person whose presence you don't dread. I hope that I, by choosing to marry your wonderful mother, have modeled for you how you can find a soul mate who challenges and amuses. Who is never boring and is always just what you need. I hope that we have shown you a relationship which is made up of two equals who look forward to each day with each other as a new experience, a honeymoon that doesn't end and a fresh chance to make a best friend proud. I hope that we have brought you up with a sister who taught you about looking out for someone else because you'd want her to look out for you. And in whom you see the best of yourself and those around you -- something you should be protective of.
I hope you see in your family the respect and love for heritage and collective memory and that you are surrounded by people who ask questions, dig for answers and love the process. And who share that adventure with each other because we all value growth and advancement. I hope that at every shabbos meal, we have surrounded you with people who push the envelope and make you think, even while you laugh, cringe and pretend you either aren't listening or don't understand. People who have shown you that divergent ways of living and life are not always mutually exclusive and that, more than "life is pain" life is dealing with pain and rising above it. People who surround you with love and both the willingness to compromise and the stubbornness not to when it isn't the right course. People who do the right thing even as they gripe and grouse about it, because they know that it is important to to do the right thing.
Through high school, college and life and into new relationships, you have been looking for people. I hope you have found and will continue to forge circles of friends who help you be the brilliant, funny, cutting and insightful person that you are. I hope you surround yourself with a household which celebrates every day as a victory for the good guys and which makes you go to bed tired each evening because you had to rise up to face what life has to offer and you emerged unbroken. I hope you surround yourself with friends and relatives, peers and colleagues who drive you to care about your world and bring others up to where you are, instead of people who drag you down to their level.
As you begin this new chapter of your life, do so with a strong support group. People to eat and drink with. people to go out or stay in with. A spouse who wants to be there for you and whom you want to be there for. Happiness is not a solitary venture -- it is the function of comfort. And yes, sometimes being alone is comforting. But knowing that when you are done being alone, you have the best friends EVER to go back to is real happiness. Do as I hope I have shown you I have done: find quality people. Our circles, our families and our friends are some of the most incredible people who have shared the experience of raising you. I am proud that they are here today and in awe of all they have helped me become. Find people about whom you say, as I have often said about many of my friends, "bottom line, he's a really good person." Those are the ones who will bring you happiness. Find that world and be that person for everyone else. Have your own family and teach what it is to be a good person the way I hope your mother, your family and our friends have tried to teach you.
And I hope you come back to me for advice often because I see you as one of the quality people I would want to surround myself with and I value all the time we get to spend together.
I'm sure I am supposed to say nice things about the groom but as my elder is only 16 and is already aghast at the prospect of my writing this speech now (she just walked in and told me so) I will skip trying to make a hypothetical guy like me. Suffice to say, if he passes the muster of my girls' judgment then he is probably a pretty good guy.
So this is a first draft. I anticipate that I will have a few years to polish it. Or trash it and come up with a totally new tack. Fin.