My Bat Mitzvah Speech to my Daughter: Storyteller

Emily, the last but not least…

I can’t believe you are 13….and not because time flies, which is true, but because you are a wise story-telling sage inhabiting the body of a 13 year old.

One of my favorite things to hear when you come home from school is: “Mom, I have a story for you.” Or the occasional, “Mom I have three stories for you.” This is after our required routine exchange of: “Emily, how was your day?” and your reply of “Normal.”

Your story-telling gift was evident from the time you were five years old during our bird conversation outside at Flatbranch Restaurant in town. It was a lovely day, and we managed to get one of the coveted outside tables. But you didn’t think it was so great to sit outside. Soon small little finch birds started to flock around our table. You were dodging them and had a frightened look on your face. To ease your worries, I said, “It’s okay, Emily. They won’t hurt you. They are more afraid of you than you are of them.” Without skipping a beat you looked at me and said, in a perfect deadpan inflection, “What if today is the day they decide to face their fears?” I remember pausing for a second to register what you had said. Your dad and I looked at each other with wide eyes and just laughed. How could we argue with that? I mean Alfred Hitchcock called that too… many years before you were born.

At that moment at the ripe old age of five, I knew you were smarter and wittier than I could ever hope to be. And I knew your timing, quick mind, and delivery would make you into a great story-teller. From that time on you have been sharing your daily observations that most people don’t think twice about. You manage to turn those almost imperceptible moments into thoughtful musings and detail filled stories.

My hope is that you continue to keenly observe your world and share your insights with a wider audience to help make the world a better place. Whether it’s analyzing how your P.E. teacher is being sexist by only asking the boys to be team captains or contemplating how to deal with our dog Kirby using the appropriate dog therapy, your perceptions of the world are a daily gift to me and our family…and, yes, that includes Kirby too. And I know others will benefit from your observations and insights as you make your way in this world.

The Jewish people are wonderful story-tellers, and I look forward to seeing you fully cultivating your gift as you grow older and even wiser. When I think about you as a story-teller, I also think of Maya Angelou. You share her name and you chose her for your fourth grade project on famous Missourians. Coincidence? I think not. She had some story-telling wisdom to share and that I hope you will remember: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Stories can be a way of passing down histories and memories, and they can also be a way of connecting observations to see patterns. In this way, sharing your unique perspectives on the world with others can also be an avenue for action, for making change so that all people are treated justly with dignity and respect. I can see you contributing in this way because you are already a wonderful humanitarian. I am so very proud of you and honored to call you my daughter. I love you.



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