Three beloved girls in my daughter's fifth grade class are leaving this year. One is moving to New York because her father took a job there. Another's family is making aliyah. The third is going to Switzerland for her father's sabbatical.
These are all "happy reasons" to go, but the effect on the kids in the class is huge. Many of them have been in school together since preschool.
One of my daughter's classmates arranged for a surprise goodbye party for all three of their leaving friends. This amazing 10 year old girl planned and organized everything: She assembled and prepared construction paper, art supplies, many photographs of each girl in the fifth grade, and many more of the three unwitting guests of honor. She crafted and implemented a ruse that kept the goal of the afternoon a surprise from them.
The young hostess arranged for each of the three departing girls to come over at noon for a playdate this past Sunday (yesterday).
The rest of the girls in the class showed up an hour earlier, at 11a.m. For that hour, they made scrapbook pages: one for each of the departing girls.
Just before noon, the completed pages were ferreted upstairs, where they were scanned into .pdf files (so all the girls could have a copy,) and the were originals bound, yielding three personalized scrapbooks. These scrapbooks had pages made by each of the friends in the class. The pages had sweet and silly messages, contact information, serious and goofy pictures of the girls.
When the guests of honor arrived for their playdate, they found a surprise party.
The completed scrapbooks were presented as an additional surprise at the end of the afternoon.
I was asked to make the cakes. Our uber-competent ten year old hostess specifically requested I make the type of stand-up sign that I use for Shabbat birthday cakes. (My daughter, Hannah, told her about this.) The goodbye party wasn't on Shabbat, but our young hostess wanted this type of sign because it would be visible in the photographs. She really thought of EVERYTHING.
When I serve birthday cakes on Shabbat, I don't write words with the frosting because there are some who consider this writing, an activity forbidden on Shabbat.* In order to personalize the cake, I print a sign on paper, laminate it, and attach three wooden skewers (or chopsticks) to the laminated sign with packing tape.
This method allows for a personalized greeting, without making any guest who wouldn't eat frosting-writing comfortable about having dessert.
Here's a picture of Hannah with the cake with the sign.
Since this party was on Sunday, it has both the sign described above AND writing on the cake. (The Hebrew says "good luck" and "go peacefully") (For shabbat, the cake would not have words written on it.)
We also made this tray of cupcakes:
Watching these girls make meaningful fun out of a bittersweet goodbye taught me something:
I hope to avail myself of opportunities to make my goodbyes into real expressions of friendship, just like they did.
*This is but one opinion, others hold that since the frosting that makes the letters is made of the same ingredients as the rest of the frosting, this isn't considered "writing" in terms of melacha on Shabbat because they're made of the same substance. I'm careful to do this, not because I think it's a melacha, but out of respect for any guests who would, and who might want a piece of cake. (I actually have no opinion one way or the other on this issue. We've never asked. I'm not a Rabbi; I don't even play one on television.)