Phoebe, this is the part where I say a few things and try not to cry before your dad says a lot of things and tries not to laugh at his own jokes.
The Shehecheyanu seems especially fitting given the journey to this evening. These past weeks and months have stretched us and tested you. You have drawn on your inner-strength and leaned on those around you for support.
So we have prepared this blessing for you, really, as a tribute to the incredible community of family and friends that has shaped you. And to those who came before you, whose faith and fortitude enabled us to reach this day.
This tradition and these opportunities are your inheritance. We love you. Happy birthday.
Of all the powerful female role models we could reference to begin this blessing, consider the words of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir:
"You don’t have to be modest, you’re not that great."
If we are immodest about you, it is because your greatness lies in your humanity, in your flaws and rough edges, and how you embrace the messiness of the world.
Thank you for your d’var torah tonight. Of course, it is just the latest installment in the many lessons you have taught us over the years. To be your parent — or grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, brother, teammate or friend — is to be a student of Phoebology, a cutting-edge interdisciplinary field that is constantly developing new hypotheses based on broad empirical evidence.
I can barely scratch the surface of any one Phoebological lesson. Instead, here is the Phoebology syllabus — how not just to be, but to PhoeBe — 13 years in the making.
PhoeBe kind. People always used to tell you how beautiful you were, so I would say “What’s more important than being beautiful” and you would say “being kind.” In fact, your kindness is beautiful and it shines through even in challenging circumstances.
Phoebe, do you even know what it’s like to get stitches?
I know what it’s like to give stitches, Judah.
Maybe it’s actually tree nuts that are allergic to you.
PhoeBe curious. There is something to learn from every experience and encounter, so much so that you might jumble things when you’re trying to capture them all, like when you came home from a field trip to Greenfield Village and told us that you sat in the same seat on the bus where Rosa Parks was assassinated. Or recently, when you decided to forego your phone to start reading To Kill a Hummingbird.
PhoeBe cozy. It’s a great big world that can be overwhelming, so sometimes the best thing to do is curl up on the couch in fuzzy socks with Rory, Lorelei and the rest of Stars Hollow. I don’t blame you for ditching the gang from West Beverly High in favor of Chilton, even if you never found out whether Donna Martin graduates.
PhoeBe competitive. Judah loves to win, but Phoebe hates to lose. I’m glad your teammates are here and I know they are glad they aren’t your opponents. In the last game, you were struggling and questioned a call by the ref. Their goalie called you delusional. When you scored the go-ahead goal for the win, you responded ... Who’s delusional now?
PhoeBe accountable. You didn’t hesitate when the neighbors asked you to watch their gecko and bunny while they were in Florida. Then the gecko went missing. You asked me for help without making any excuses. After searching all over their basement — and briefly atreptilesshoponline.com — we ultimately found the gecko under a fake rock in his terrarium. We breathed a collective sigh of relief at which point you said,
“I’ll be with the bunny.”
Note: Accountability for living things does not extend to dolls, who are perfectly comfortable living behind the washing machine after a bad haircut.
PhoeBe charismatic. When Phoebe dances, we say, “you come for the choreography, but you stay for the facial expressions.” There’s a saying that you should dance like nobody’s watching, but you dance like everybody’s watching because we can’t take our eyes off of you.
PhoeBe persuasive. Your mom and I have both taken graduate level classes in negotiation. I was voted Most Feared Negotiator by my classmates. But that was before you came along. One moment, it’s just a normal Thursday in April. The next, you are declaring “I’m your national daughter” and arranging transportation to Ford World Headquarters for a morning out of school followed by a power lunch.
PhoeBe creative. Practically anything can be improved by food coloring with the possible exception of your face. And what good is a bunk bed if you don’t draw on the ceiling?
PhoeBe critical. The only thing better than reading a good book together is reading a good book together and finding a typo. You have found some good ones, including in Harry Potter and the Something Something. What makes those typos so tantalizing? Rather than diminish our enjoyment of the book, they enhance it by giving you a little glimpse behind the curtain at the creative mind behind the story. Don’t take it personally that none of the authors have written you back to thank you for the correction.
PhoeBe linguistic. Sometimes you know exactly what you want to say but just need to breathe the right word or phrase into existence. Who needs “brain freeze” when you’ve got a slurpee-induced Freeze Brain? What “unbuckle” lacks in fervor, you deftly solved by shouting “buckle me out” from the back seat. Shakespeare would no doubt agree that the perfect word doesn’t have to come from a dictionary when you’re setting out on an accomplimission.
PhoeBe chaotic. Just keep the Otter Box on your phone.
PhoeBe lucky. A few years ago, we booked a trip to Disney World after the holidays. When we told you the day we were flying to Florida, you said, “for my birthday?” To which we replied, “yes … for your birthday.”
PhoeBe yourself. On that same trip, we packed the usual outfits you’d worn when you were five: Belle, Anna, Elsa, Aurora, Rapunzel and Cinderella dresses. When we arrived at our hotel room in Radiator Springs, you ditched them all in favor of your Jedi outfit, which you subsequently wore to defeat Darth Vader.
PhoeBe nostalgic. PhoeBe intrepid. PhoeBe vulnerable. PhoeBe present. PhoeBe inclusive. PhoeBe good.
We love you, Phoebe Wren. Mazel tov.