Sunday, November 30, 2008

Family Fun In Jacksonville

On Friday, I continued my dual destination holiday weekend and flew down to Jacksonville for the celebration of my cousin Logan's Bar Mitzvah.

Yesterday's festivities began with a moving two-hour service at Beth El Synagogue. The rabbi spoke at length about his pride in calling Logan not only a friend but an inspiration. A smart, sensitive young man who exults in other's triumphs, Logan is and always has been a joy to be around.

Family Reunion: Me and (from left) my cousins Carla, Dana, Logan and Shannon celebrate Logan's Bar Mitzvah and 13th birthday

After the service, Logan's celebration continued at Maggiano's, an inviting Italian restaurant located in Jacksonville's St. John's Town Center -- one of the most sprawling and well-appointed outdoor malls I've ever seen. The sublime menu began with fried mozzarella, stuffed mushrooms, and zucchini fritters. Family style entrees included chicken parmigiana and a four cheese ravioli in pesto sauce that was to die for.

The intimate gathering of nearly 100 family and friends was extra special for me because it reunited me with maternal relatives I hadn't seen in years. My beloved late mother had 18 first cousins, and five of them were at Logan's party. There was lots of reminiscing, and of course, lots of picture taking.

As everyone danced to the Hora and then a medley of Spanish music, I couldn't help thinking of family occasions past. Since Mom was Catholic and of Hispanic descent (my grandparents were from Ecuador and Puerto Rico) and Dad was Jewish, I was lucky to grow up experiencing many interfaith and bicultural traditions.

Logan's Bar Mitzvah reminded me of how fortunate I am to have such a rich heritage -- and to have a wonderful family with whom to continue my parents' legacy. And I have no doubt that yesterday, they were celebrating too.

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