Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dan's speech


Within our little family we have evolved a custom. On Friday nights, immediately after the official Shabbat blessings, and before the serving and devouring of the meal, we go around the dinner table and take turns to speak. Each person delivers a brief reflection on his or her day or week while everyone else listens. There is no question and answer, in theory no interrupting, just talking and attentive listening, and after each person has delivered his or her message a rousing "Shabbat Shalom".

The messages are often about an exciting occurrence, an expression of gratitude, a good deed done, a funny anecdote, a moment shared. But regardless of the content, I am always grateful for these few minutes of speaking, listening and sharing.

Now: Rather than attempt to replicate this custom in the large and go around the entire room, I would like instead to have a slightly longer turn for myself and reflect --- not so much on the past week -- but on the past 8 1/2 years since Andi and I first became an item.

Andi and I first met when Simon (today's MC) invited us over to his and Sara's flat to watch an evening of the athletics finals during the Sydney Olympics. I believe it was the final of the Men's 400 metres dash. Naturally, I was keen to see athletic history in the making, and I can only imagine that Andi was similarly excited.

A first date followed not long after and I was immediately taken with Andi's evident warmth, sense of humour, and voluptuousness, not necessarily in that order. As I got to know her I quickly began to appreciate her other wonderful qualities, including -- but, I stress, not limited to -- kindness, loyalty, intelligence, musicality, skill in cookery, excellence in hostessing, being a good listener, patience, an abhorrence of gratuitous violence and yet a love of Arnie movies, and a great sense of fun. The obsession with the cutting up and sewing back together of fabrics was also apparent fairly early on, and I am afraid that I rather encouraged it.

Other images of our early days together: We departed our flats and moved into a little rented house; survived a holiday in Malaysia notable for the stifling humidity and terrifying driving; the afternoon at Sorrento when we wrote a hilarious -- yet still unaccountably unpublished -- children's book together.

In 2003 Andi expressed some private concerns about her fertility, but these fears were somewhat allayed by her immediately falling pregnant. Jake was expected on New Year's Eve, but true to Prager (well: Feldman) family tradition arrived somewhat late, and in point of fact was only scared out under the threat of induction. The red hair was something of a surprise; we were also surprised and a little excited that his first sounds were more akin to singing than screaming. If he had said "toot toot" it might have been a more accurate portent.

Any remaining doubts over Andi's fertility were put to rest with a second pregnancy: this time Ella. The name Ella was not my original choice, but after many months of cogent and unabated lobbying I was persuaded. As a fan of nominal determinism, I now submit that our cheese-loving daughter's full name is really "Mozzerella".

Today, Jake and Ella are respectively ensconced in school and kindergarten. I am unreasonably proud that they have both portrayed Moses in Passover pageants, sleep through the night, and that they will respond to my cry of "Go!" with "'Pies!" in true Pavlovian fashion.

Earlier this year I asked Jake to list three things that he had learned, having just completed his first month at school. His immediate and definite response:
  1. Respect
  2. Sport, "and finally:"
  3. Italian
I asked the same question of Ella, who had just begun her kindergarten career. She replied:
  1. How to draw
  2. That [another child] is not my friend, "and"
  3. That I do not know how to draw.
And so, to the present, and to answer the burning questions:

Question 1: Where did the red hair come from?
Answer: Apparently, the mother's favourite color can determine the hair colour of her offspring.

Question 2: How much longer will this speech go for?
Answer: Just one more minute.

Some quick messages.

To Simon: Thank-you for being a wonderful friend, introducing us, agreeing to act as MC, and advising us -- well, Andi -- on the organization of this shin-dig. You know "from weddings".

To my friends from the martial arts, my "other" family: Arigato gozai mashita; arigato gozai mas. Thank-you for what has gone before; thank-you for what is yet to come.

To my new in-laws, Jacquie and Bumi: It's nice to be a son-in-law at last, after having been an outlaw for so long.

To my parents and my grandmother: One of the advantages of growing older is that you get to be proud of one's parents (and Nan) as well as one's children. Reverse-nachas, if you like.

Speaking of which:

To Jake: I am truly sorry that we are not allowing you go ahead with the original version of your speech; maybe we can include it on the DVD as a special feature.

To Ella: I hope that you are enjoying this party, and that one day you will eat vegetables.

Finally, to Andi: This wedding has been a testament to your organizational skill and rose-tinted vision, and to my ability to say "Yes, that sounds great" as a way of avoiding hard work. You have been a wonderful companion in good times, and a great support in difficult times. You bring color into my life. I love you heaps. Gimme a kiss.

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