October 23, 2009, Cohen’s Private Home, Great Falls, Virginia
Twelve-year-old Anna seems very content with her life, even though it’s far from normal. She is an academic wonder intensely drawn to all types of physical combat, especially self-defense training. She practices boxing, martial arts, and weapons marksmanship for hours each day. She excels in horseback riding, high-speed driving, and high-risk stunts on motorcycles—all done on private courses available for her. She’s one of the youngest people to earn a pilot’s license.
The one thing that does not seem to capture Anna’s interest is relationships. It seems to Sarah that Anna sizes up a person in minutes and decides if they have anything to offer her. If they do not, she dismisses them.
Sarah shares her concerns about Anna’s anti-social tendencies with Enoch. He assures her it’s best their daughter be self-sufficient. Though he shows little concern for Anna’s lack of social skills, he is completely obsessed with the idea of her becoming a world leader. Their parenting conversations center entirely around Anna’s advancements and achievements. Enoch does not broach the day-to-day things that typically challenge teenage girls. He pushes Anna hard, and to her credit, she rises to the occasion.
Sarah regrets she does not have a traditional mother-daughter relationship with Anna. This is her only child. She partly blames herself for being a working mom, but also knows Anna shows little interest in the time she does make available to her. Her twelve-year-old seems to prefer the constant interruptions and testing sessions with the scientists to shopping and lunching with her mother. Sarah loves her daughter dearly, but resents participating in the project.
In order to keep her mind off the Anna situation, Sarah digs into her startup company, Sun Economics. She enjoys being CEO of a project that will undoubtedly have global impact. Enoch is equally as busy with his political career. He is New York’s most popular Congressman and is not being subtle about his desire to be in the White House when the time is right.
When Enoch declares he will make his wife the original “Jewish First Lady,” Sarah dismisses him with her standard, “Oy vey, you’re killing me here.” Future fantasies aside, Sara’s focus is on the next very real marker in the Cohen household, set to take place in forty-eight hours: Anna’s Bat Mitzvah.
Their synagogue, Beth Tikvah, and the attached social hall are full of thousands of white candles. The flowers arrangements are on their way. Every detail has been handled. She decides to celebrate with a cup of warm tea in their home’s Florida room.
Sarah tries to relax but finds herself running through the details once again. The guest list is the source of most of her concerns. Enoch has been adding names to it every day since she finalized the headcount with the caterer. Once the invite list hit two hundred, Sarah turned the arrangements over to an event planner. Initially, this was set to be an intimate family event with forty or fifty guests. She is concerned that Enoch’s last-minute invites will spoil the sentimentality of the day. To her surprise, Anna is excited about the growing guest list.
“That’s perfect! If two hundred people attend, then two hundred people will know how I intend to change the world.” Sarah thinks her reply is a bit odd, but decides not to pursue it further. The only thing Sarah wants is a seamless celebration of her soon-to-be thirteen-year-old’s coming of age.