Celebrations have definitely taken on a new appearance over the past weeks. Although the way we mark a momentous occasion may look a little different, the meaning remains the same. We want to feel special and loved and share the moment with friends and family.
On Sunday, June 14, we celebrated my daughter Ally’s bat mitzvah in a different yet memorable way. As so many of us in similar positions, we wondered how to make her coming of age meaningful.
We decided four weeks ago to plan a Surprise Car Parade for her friends and family on her actual birthday, June 14. As the weeks passed and guidelines continued to change, allowing for more leniencies, the car parade turned into a pseudo outdoor, social-distance bat mitzvah celebration. Although when you break it down, it was actually pretty simple—music, balloons, pizza, water, juice and Musa’s ice cream truck. Not your typical lavish bat mitzvah spread, but then again a parking lot is not your typical bat mitzvah venue. Ally gave a dvar Torah and then there were a few speeches from her family, which we kept short and sweet. The entire event lasted a little over an hour.
We were fortunate to procure an outdoor space, utilizing the back parking lot of my office building in Paramus. This gave ample space for cars to drive in and be directed to park, and for people to socialize with enough safe space between them. The line of cars came in the entrance and stopped at the “stage” area where Ally greeted her guests one car at a time, giving out bags of swag.
The celebration was a surprise for Ally who only knew the date and that we were planning something special. Ally could not have been happier; she was smiling, laughing and dancing with friends and family. “It was better than anything I could have imagined,” Ally told me during the party. We kept the guest list to just Ally’s friends and family, but the energy and vibe was most certainly felt. It was surely a memorable event; even the weather cooperated, and we were all thankful for that.
The empty parking lot was decorated with signs and posters that helped to direct traffic flow and point out the food stations, while also reminding people to socially distance. A big thank you to Mike Fried from Signarama for his excellent printing! Also a big thanks to my sister Talya, who helped me plan the event, and my dad, who built the stage and added his catering-ambiance center pieces on the tables. With the addition of balloons and streamers, voila, the parking lot became an event space. Simple does not have to mean less, it just makes you appreciate things much more.
As a chesed project, Ally started a cereal box collection and donated over 50 cereal boxes to the Bergenfield Pantry Gemach.
My husband, Daniel, and I are very proud of our daughter, who is such a happy, confident, genuine young lady. Her dimpled smile, midot, kindness and tenacious and wacky personality keep our lives interesting and eventful. She is such a capable person, and always willing to help others. If there is a problem, she is the first to get up and see what she can do to try to fix it. May she continue to grow and live up to her full potential. The world better watch out because this girl is going to take it by storm.
As the bat mitzvah ended, we quickly switched gears and rushed to the Moriah eighth grade graduation at the Garden State Mall parking lot, also in Paramus, to watch our son Jeremy officially graduate from Moriah. After so many uneventful Sundays over the past months, this Sunday was definitely a whirlwind, but we could not have been more proud (and more tired) at the end of the day.
The takeaway from the day for me was that doing things differently does not detract a thing from the actual simcha. When surrounded by friends and family, whether inches apart or six feet apart, whether in a car or in a seated auditorium, the feeling and message is the same—love and appreciation, at the core of everything, makes it all special and worth it. We are thankful to Hashem for all His blessings.
Kellita Weber has a BA in Journalism from Rutgers University. She currently works full time in sales and marketing. She lives in Englewood with her husband and 4 children.