That's Natalie and Josh. They were about three years old when that picture was taken, laughing in a way that only three year olds can laugh. It's my favorite picture of the two of them together, out of a collection of several hundred.
I met Josh's mother Barbara when Natalie had just turned a year old and Josh was a month or two shy of his first birthday. I had joined the local Mother's Center in the hopes of meeting someone else who wanted to talk about nothing but their baby's bowel movements and which brand of stroller was best. We became fast friends, joined together by a mutual disdain for some of the more controlling members of the Center and we very rarely talked about poop or projectile vomiting. Our friendship was forged not so much on our children, but on our mutual respect of each other's values and goals. Plus, she had the same black sense of humor as me. Laughter solidifies a friendship like nothing else.
That was back in 1991. I didn't imagine then that I would still be such close friends with Barbara, that 12 years later I would be going to Josh's Bar Mitzvah.
It's not the same watching someone else's kid grow up. I keep remembering Josh as a baby, a toddler, a small child. I remember his fascination with Thomas the Tank Engine. I remember his obsession with Power Rangers. The way he was an incredibly fussy eater, how he had a wicked temper, how he was the most stubborn child I had ever come across.
Now, he is this even tempered young man who will eat anything you put in front of him. He's tall and handsome and a gifted athlete. He plays the trombone as well as he plays third base and he is kind, generous and caring.
Josh and his young brother Corey have been like sons to me all these years, as much as Barbara has been like a sister. I yell at them as if they were my own kids. They fight with Natalie and DJ like siblings, but they laugh together as the best of friends.
Today I'll watch Josh become a man, in the parlance of Judaism. It both depresses me and warms my heart to see the person he has become. It's that bittersweet moment when you realize that someone has grown up before your very eyes and you think, he can't be thirteen years old, just yesterday I was watching him take his first step! I'm awfully proud of Josh, and proud of his parents, my dear friends, for raising such a wonderful child.
Congratulations, Joshua. May your journey through the rest of your life be guided by the love of your family and friends.