Saturday, September 6, 2008

CGP is Twenty-Three: May You Stay Forever Young!

This weekend, the Chem Geek Princess is in Seattle with her man, celebrating her twenty-third birthday. 23! XXIII! No matter how I write it, I must accept that fact that my firstborn, my beloved daughter, is my child no longer.

Oh, she's my daughter still, but she's all grown up.

This is my little princess as she was, twenty-one years ago!

Today as I was doing the Shabbat dishes (I leave them overnight on Friday night, an indulgence of Sabbath rest), I was listening to an old Peter, Paul, and Mary remaster.

The last song was Dylan's Forever Young. I used to sing that song to the Chem Geek Princess at bedtime as we'd rock in the rocker, her eyes growing heavy from her day of adventures, bedtime at hand.

"May G-d bless and keep you always,

May your dreams all come true,

May you always do for others, and let others do for you,

May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung,

May you stay . . . forever young!"

As the song continued, my hands stopped in the dishwater (crystal, I always do by hand), and I started pondering the meaning of the the wish. Yes, I guess it is true that in some way, as I cradled my weanling to sleep, I wished time would stand still;, but rocker went on swaying back and forth, marking the passing of time into the night.

So what does it mean, to wish for someone to stay forever young?

"May you grow up to be righteous,

May you grow up to be true,

May you always know the truth

and see the light surrounding you,

May you always be courageous,

Stand upright and be strong,

May you stay . . . forever young!

That second verse does not indicate that forever young means forever a child, a kind of Peter-Pan Never, Never Land. And even if we, as parents, sometimes wish that time would quit slipping away so quickly, our children are on an urgently desired journey to adulthood. They can hardly wait to take on the world and make it over in their own image and likeness.

And in that second verse we can also see that staying forever young does not mean staying innocent. Being righteous, standing upright, knowing truth--these all mean accepting responsibility for being a real human being, which requires knowledge of good and evil.

"May your hand always be busy,

May your feet always be swift,

May you have a firm foundation

When the winds of changes shift;

May your heart always be joyful,

May your song always be sung,

May you stay . . . forever young!"

Forever young . . .

I think it must mean keeping that joyful, adventurous heart of a child, even as one acquires the skills and wisdom of adulthood. It means growing in mind and spirit, to meet the challenges and purposes of a free and productive life.

At her naming, the Chem Geek Princess was given the names of matriarchs: a princess-priestess, a mother of nations, and a prophetess of freedom. Then she was blessed thus:

"May this little one grow great! As she has been brought into the Covenant of our Father Abraham and our Mother Sarah, so shall she be brought to the study of Torah, of a marriage worthy of G-d's blessing, and a life of righteous deeds."

We have brought her to Torah: the marriage and righteous deeds are her responsibility now. She has grown up, and by finding and fulfilling the purposes she was born to, greatness is hers to find and to create.

Happy birthday, my-not-so-little-one!

You have grown up.

Now, may you grow great by fulfilling the hopes I sang for you as the rocker danced us into time.

Here is the Chem Geek Princess in her twenty-third summer.

May you stay . . . forever young!


Kaber said...


Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous young lady. Happy birthday to her!