May 26, 2017

New home in our Jewish land

Her bedroom is empty. The bed is stripped, the shelves bare, the dresses that were once slumped on a chair are replaced by a single zipped bag hanging on a hook. It's her wedding dress: retired and out of service.

My daughter just had her one-month wedding anniversary. Some four weeks ago, this very room was buzzing, filled with her friends coming and going, my daughter sitting on her bed frantic with worry, anticipation, fear and excitement.

 We all believed in a simple wedding, still we became caught up in it, sucked into A Wedding Vortex. We spent hours and hours pouring over the details, lists, names. Our to-do list never seemed to diminish. How could this be? I reminded myself that we are here to celebrate a marriage, not merely a party.

And it all started with The Dress, the one that now limply hangs, shrouded in a plastic bag. As my daughter wanted to get married ‘differently,’ we began a search for The Dress that did not look like a wedding dress.  Not really, but kind of. Not frilly and puffy and tight, but soft and loose and natural.

Well, we trod the pavement and I helped her pull wedding dress after wedding dress over head. She would step into it, frown and move on. It was exhausting, yet, she finally found the one. From there, it all spiraled into many other big decisions.

The young couple decided on most things pertaining to their wedding. We smiled, watching them weigh their options, iron out their choices and manage their budget. These were the very first of many such discussions they would be having over a lifetime of marriage.

And again, whenever I felt overwhelmed, I would remember that the focus should be on celebrating a marriage - not an extravagant one-night party. It is not about napkin colours or centerpieces; rather it is about two people who are in love and who want to share their lives together.

Making their way to the chuppa.
As parents, our greatest pleasure was watching the couple grow together as they planned this wedding. They were on the phone constantly, debating, discussing. They had to divvy up the tasks and the phone calls. Then they would sit for hours over the computer, examining lists and names. And they did it all as a perfect unit.

They designed their own chuppa ceremony. We sat in amazement, growing with excitement hearing their thoughts and inspirations.

And finally, the big day came. During the wedding, we tried our best to stay present and aware throughout. It all happens with a flurry, months of planning evaporating in a few hours. As my own wedding was a blur, I wanted to capture my daughter’s wedding differently.

Yet when we stood under the chuppa, I felt present but in disbelief. Is this really happening? Has time passed so quickly that I am the now older generation marrying off the new? How does the time slip by? And how much time do we have left? These jarring thoughts signaled me to be aware, grateful and appreciative.

My father and my husband’s 95-year-old aunt were called up to the chuppa to honour the memory of those who were gone and dearly missed: my mother, my husband’s parents, the groom’s father whose tallit was draped atop the chuppa, and many other dear relatives.  We stood there remembering, pulling their memories down, accompanied by a beautiful haunting melody, first composed by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. 

This enchanting song bound the present moment to the past and embedded an awareness of moving forward with an awareness of the love of those who are gone.

My daughter decided to walk around her husband alone, not with the mothers. The marriage was her journey, her decision, and she wanted to do it on her own, in her own way.

We honoured every one of their choices. And so they created a wedding that was unique, spiritual and distinctly theirs. It was their first big project and creation together.

A true Israeli-style wedding, this event would not have been possible anywhere outside of this country. It was outdoors in an herb garden and set under the stars. Informal wear was a must. It was barefoot for some, sandalled for most and the evening filled with unbridled joy, shrieks, clapping, acrobatics and heartfelt dancing. 

It was their signature night, the moment when a young couple pledged their vows with the promise to set up a Jewish home in a Jewish land. 

Just like that now retired wedding dress hanging idly on a hook, life has returned to stillness.  We continue to observe our married couple as they set up a life together, in synch and in love. 

Wishing them a lifetime of joy as they take these first steps towards a meaningful life together.