The Wedding

It was about 1:30 Monday afternoon. We had already dropped off the wedding gown to the place where Leah would dress. In the car were the boutonniers for the men, the flower crowns for the little girls, the bride’s bouquet, and the rose petals. We drove through the Judean Hills to the place where my youngest daughter would be transformed into a bride. When I returned to get her, she was radiant. Her face really was glowing. Her happiness was complete. The day had arrived. Just an hour or so earlier, her sister had called to tell her that despite having given birth to a little girl on Saturday, she would be able to attend the ceremony, on leave from the hospital.

My little bride and I left for the wedding hall, and everything that happened from that moment on was far beyond what we could have imagined. The room looked beautiful. In place of the tiny bud vases that they had agreed to supply with three roses, there were lovely flower arrangements on every table. The wedding planner had placed the candlesticks we brought on each table, had strewn rose petals, had taken care of every detail. The photographer took pictures of all of my beautiful grandchildren in their party clothes and fresh-scrubbed faces. The groom was waiting to begin with the tnaim and his mother and I broke the plate. All was ready.

I went to my daughter’s side. The men were bringing her groom to her. I will never forget the look on his face, the tears in my eyes, the tears running down the face of my older daughter, the happiness that filled the room. The groom left for the chuppah with his mother and we walked our daughter out into the Jerusalem night, stars gleaming, where, surrounded by love, they became husband and wife.

The joy burst into sparkle and fire as the groom’s friends, the jugglers, filled the hall with flying objects and mirth. The Dixieland Jazz band played its banjo and washboard as the jugglers performed. We danced with fans and leis and streamers.

Later, the groom sang to his Eishet Chayil, surprising us with his wonderful singing voice. Then the neices and nephews sang to their aunt and welcomed their new uncle to the family. As the wedding drew to a close, my husband and I and the groom’s mother were crowned with flowers for having married off our last child. Our grandchildren swept the floor with little brooms as was the custom for this song and our children danced around us. “It’s our baby daughter’s wedding.”

After the wedding, I took the young couple to the Kotel (Western Wall) where they went to pray. She was hugged by some of the few young women there who asked for her blessing, as a bride’s blessings are thought to be powerful.

I went home more than content. I was elated. They are full of happiness and carry a deep respect for each other. May G-d grant them a long healthy happy life together and bless them with children whose eyes will shine with the light of Torah.

Beat the Clock

Rachel, our older daughter, was sent to the hospital to be induced on Thursday morning. We followed her progress by phone. By “progress” I mean progress in obtaining a room in which they would be able to induce her. Apparently all of the rooms were full– all of the rooms at Shaarey Zedek Hospital where she was, all of the rooms at Hadassah Ein Kerem, all of the rooms at Hadassah Mount Scopus! In short, unless you were about to deliver imminently, you were in line to be induced.

Thursday passed with no action. Friday brought the news that Rachel was 5th in line. By Friday afternoon, she was second in line, but then someone came and took her place and she remained second in line for a long while. By the time we lit Sabbath candles, all we knew was that Rachel was still at the hospital waiting.

But the end of shabbat brought good news. Rachel and Ohad have a brand new beautiful baby girl! Rachel and baby are fine.

So the task at hand was to try to get to the hospital in Jerusalem to see her. Here are the details: Leah and I had to pick up her wedding gown, also in Jerusalem and drop it off at the hair and makeup lady’s house, about 10 minutes closer to our house. This necessitated an empty back seat in the car. Meanwhile, my husband, my sister, and my friend also wanted to go to the hospital. In addition, we needed to pick up the groom’s mother also in Jerusalem. As we added it all up, it was clear that we needed to use more than one car.

A friend’s son had told us that he would lend up his car if it was available when we needed it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have his phone number. So, I looked in the phone directory. It wasn’t there. Nor was his brother’s name listed. I looked on the online listings on the internet (it wasn’t there). I tried calling information, but they didn’t answer. I called his parents, but they were not home and their cell phone was not on. I called someone at our synagogue to which he belongs, but he didn’t have the number. I called the person who he in turn told me was a good friend of his, but he didn’t have it either. Finally I called one other person who I thought might have it and she asked if I had looked for it in the telephone directory! Fortunately, she had it. They were willing to lend us the car.

All’s well that ends well. Leah and I picked up the dress and veil, dropped it off, got to the hospital just as visiting hours had ended, but managed to see Rachel and the baby as well as Sam and Ofi who had hosted the Rachel’s three oldest children for the Sabbath (making 9 children in the home!—including 3 sets of twins!), and met up with my husband and sister and friend. Later we left and picked up the groom’s mother, and returned home safely.

We’re entering the home stretch. And we are entering it with a beautiful new little person accompanying us. We are blessed.

The disk is full or too many files are open

The wedding day is nearing. The guests are arriving from out of the country and we are working on a myriad of details, none of which seem important, but all of which must be handled. They have to do with coordinating and remembering things and making sure that all of the people and objects are in the right place at the right time. The dress must be picked up and then dropped off at the woman who does the makeup and hair. The flowers need to get to the wedding planner. The tables have to be planned and place cards written. And meanwhile, we need to continue enjoying life and to make sure that our guests are enjoying their time in Israel.

And so today, the phone rang as we were driving from Netanya to Modi’in, and it was our daughter Rachel. She told her father that her baby is going to be induced tomorrow. Inside of me, that little clump of tissue encased in my skull registered “tilt” or, in the modern vernacular “The disk is full or too many files are open.”

It reminds me a bit of times when we had two cars and we had dropped one off to be fixed and midday the dealer called to say it was ready to be picked up, and all I could think about was how I was going to be able to drive two cars home from his repair facility.

Sure. I can do this.

Sunday morning musings

The wedding is just a little over a week away and the activity level is rising. Our first guest from out of the country has arrived. The weather is cooperating with sunshine and all of the trees are budding, making our garden particularly lovely.

It’s early Sunday morning. Everything is quiet.

We are lucky. Everyone is helpful and cooperative. No one is being picky or petty. Just as my other children-by-marriage have found their ways into my heart, this new one has already made inroads.

When my children were young, all I wanted was for them to be healthy and to grow up to be good people. I never pictured their marrying and having children of their own. I never realized that I would be blessed with children who would give me such joy or marry people who I love as my own or produce the 20++ most adorable children in the world (OK, I’m prejudiced—I’ll admit it.)

I remember during my pregnancies being excited that with the birth, I would be meeting someone new, someone I would love and nurture and care about my whole life. I remember thinking of each child as a surprise package, coming with no instruction manual, functional description, or predicted behavior. The serious curiosity of one, the devilish grin of another, the smile that came upon awakening, the quiet contentment at play, and bubbly laughter were clues as to who they would become, but they were impossible for me to interpret. Raising each of them was a different task. Each child required something different from me. Always I hoped that I was nurturing each child in the best way. The days, weeks, years, seemed to require a constant reevaluation as more of their personalities evolved and as each became his/her own person.

I don’t really know if I was a good mother. I do know that I love the way my children have grown up. I know that no mother could be happier. And now that the last one is getting married, there is nothing but joy and gratitude to the Source of all blessings.

Happy Times

People are funny. They know what makes them happy. They work for happiness, plan for happiness, and when it happens, somehow, always wait for “the other shoe to drop.” Somehow, we feel that it is hard to be happy because the happiness is going to somehow end. As a fact of nature, that is true. All things end. Beautiful plants and trees die. Houses crumble. People leave us, both temporarily and permanently. But somehow, many people are so worried about the end of happiness that they don’t enjoy the current happiness.

I understand better than ever the Jewish custom of breaking the glass at the wedding ceremony to remember the destruction of the Temple. It makes perfect sense, because in this world there is no such thing as complete happiness. There is always the awareness of past pain and suffering, the memory of people who are not with us to enjoy the celebration, the longing for those people to share in our happiness. Yet, when the glass is broken, people respond with “mazal tov!!!!” and the music begins and the people return to rejoicing.

It is the way of the world. Our blessings come in the context of a reality that is not always so pleasant and happy. Yet, it is those happy moments that sustain us and give us the energy and the strength to go through the rest of life.

Yesterday I was recalling the times I spent with my four older children when they were young. I remembered reading them stories, doing art projects with them, taking them to the pool or to the park or to historic places. I remembered calling them “monkeys” and how they and I enjoyed their hi-jinx. I long for those days and yet know they are gone. I feel happy for them that they are experiencing those same types of joys with their own children. The happy times reside in me as places that give me comfort and happiness whenever I choose to remember them. The memories of good times, both major and minor, are treasures that we can always summon. The happy times are resources that we can treasure for our entire lives.

Happy Things

Today I had some interesting guests, among them: Mickey and Minnie Mouse, a cowboy and a cowgirl, a ninja warrior and the grim reaper, Gandolf and two prairie girls, an oriental beauty and a queen, a married couple, both of whom are pregnant, a gypsy, a lion, an elephant, a magician, a dog, and a bunny. They were all amazingly well-behaved, although a few of them had to be bribed with bananas, strawberries, and chocolate milk.

It’s nice to have a day to just be happy. It was wonderful to see the happy little and big faces. If the story of Purim is survival, then that indeed is something to celebrate, because in every period of history, there are those whose goal it is to destroy us and this one is not an exception. Yet, we not only survive, but we thrive. We enjoy warm celebrations, the kindness of our family and friends, the beauty of our country, the goodness of God.

Today as I walked in the garden with some of the little animals, we noted the new leaves on a number of our trees and the beginnings of buds on some of the fruit trees. Already it is feeling like spring and renewal.

This week, preparations for the wedding continue as my daughter had a fitting on her dress, bought her shoes, and now will be talking to the photographer, video person, and band. We will be calling to make sure we know who will be attending and we will be making up the placecards and sign-in poster. We will be getting in touch with the wedding planner and transferring to her the candles and candlesticks for the tables and we will be arranging for personal flowers. Ah, there’s so much more, but we’ll let you know when it’s all done. The wedding is in less than two weeks!

Top Ten Reasons I’m Glad to be Home

10. Unlimited opportunity to brag about my son to other family members
9. Smokeless environment
8. Warmer temperatures
7. Radio knows how to speak a language I can understand
6. Room lights turn on without inserting card in slot
5. Annoying chimes heard on the hour are in my living room, not in church located within deafening gonging distance
4. Access to heating food without walking down a long hall with a hot pot full of boiling water to pour over the sealed food packets in the sink a minimum of 5 times
3. No more Argentinian ready-to-eat kosher meals. (Don’t ask!)
2. Fewer lions dressed up in alpine costumes (at least for the next day or two)
And the number one top reason I have for being glad to be home:
My family (need I say more?)

Travels with my son II

On day two of our trip to Munich, after the business meeting, we took the subway to Marienplatz, the central square in the downtown walking area Snow is still everywhere as they continue to dig out of the 60 centimeter (24 inch) snowfall of last Friday and Saturday. There are still cars buried in the snow, only a bit of the top of their windshield showing so that a passerby can guess what is under the mountain of snow. From time to time during the afternoon, there were flurries.

People were out walking and stores were open and there was a street performer playing the accordion. The city is dotted with statues of lions in many different poses. Each is specially painted and reflects the theme of its surroundings. The one in front of a bar is wearing a laurel wreath and holding a bottle of wine. The one in front of the confectionery store is painted as if he is made of white and dark chocolate. The one in front of the clock store has markings like a clock and the one in front of the Vodaphone store held red balloons and was wearing a red Vodaphone cap.

Our eyes caught a sign that advertised a special exhibit at the toy museum in honor of 100 years of the teddy bear. How could we resist? The museum was housed in a tower off the main square and to enter we walked through a wooden door up a stone spiral staircase for two floors. When we got to the room at the end of the staircase, there was a sweet old lady and a lot of toys in a room that was no larger than most people’s living rooms in Israel (small) and she was selling the tickets. By this time, we had made enough of a commitment to continue and buy the tickets to see the exhibit. We took the elevator up three more floors and found a room the exact size of her reception room that had lots of teddy bears (including one threadbare bear) and some other toys. Each of the two other rooms on each floor as we descended was the same. The toys were very old, many made of tin and many that were wind-up toys. The variety of bears was interesting. It included some that had been used as to house hot water bottles, baby feeding bottles, and all sorts of pouches and purses.

We walked through a market with beautiful flowers, huge luscious roses with a heavy rose scent. We saw pussywillow, something I hadn’t seen for years. We were able to smell the hot wurst being served at the array of stands as we walked and to smell the sweet smell of the gluwein, a warm cinnamon-flavored wine.

We walked into a few stores and saw cuckoo clocks and music boxes and nutcrackers– all of which awakened fond memories. There I was with my son, the same one who had, when we were living in Wiesbaden, asked for a cuckoo clock for his 5th birthday, looking once again at cuckoo clocks!

As our train headed back to the little village where we are staying, we sat happy and tired from a long fruitful day.

Travels with my son

My son has a business conference in Munich this week and I offered to come along with him. We took off this morning, a bright sun-filled day from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv. The last few days have been sunny and mild and although I knew that the weather in Munich could be quite different and I dressed for the colder weather, I never expected that after our stop in Istanbul, we would approach Munich and see only white below us. As we got closer to the ground, the scene became more and more beautiful. By the time we left the plane we could see that probably 12 inches of snow had fallen and the world was a beautiful white-iced cake.

At passport control in Munich, first my son and then I went to the window. The woman asked if we were traveling together. After he was waved through, it was my turn and I told the attractive young woman that I was his mother. She said, “Oh, I thought you were his wife.” I said, “No, his wife is young and beautiful.” She said, “That is what I thought.” It made my day.

But what really made my day was when we finally emerged from the train and began walking toward the inn where we are staying. The air was fresh and clear and cool, but not cold. We walked along the empty street past beautiful manicured houses with warm lights and fine woods visible through their windows and past a stately church and the city hall as barely a car drove by. The snow beneath our feet felt fresh and crunched as we walked, pulling our suitcases behind us. Aside from the sounds of our feet and suitcases, it was almost silent outside. I had forgotten how tranquil and peaceful the snow is. I hadn’t expected such a wonderful treat.

Planning for the future

Certainty is an illusion. “Man tracht und Gott lacht.” “Man proposes; God disposes.” “The best laid plans of mice and men…” We know this, and yet we live as if it isn’t so. People plan weeks, months, years in advance. They spend time building their knowledge base, their skills, their acquaintance network, their home, their family- as if the future will roll out in front of them as a long straight road.

We pray it will be so. We pray that they are able to fulfill the dreams they have, the ones they have worked for, but we know that sometimes it doesn’t work out. There are illnesses, their own or others’. There are accidents and acts of nature and terror attacks and suddenly all of the plans have been cancelled, or, at best, changed.

We human beings are a resilient lot. We have been given tools to deal with these setbacks and disappointments. We try harder. We research information. We adapt. We repress. We deny the pain so that we can go on. We accept the help of friends and relatives who lend us their strength and determination and optimism.

Sometimes people say, “Why bother to plan? It won’t happen anyway,” But we know that if we don’t plan and prepare, it will surely not happen. So our faith is constantly being challenged. Will we carry on in the face of the unknown? Will we continue to work hard to be the kind of people we want to be? Will we plan and work and strive to accomplish what we know is good and true and right?

There are those who believe that a righteous act is in and of itself a significant event in the universe. Each and every day, we are presented with opportunities to give our smile, our help, our love and our kindness to others. We are given the opportunity to be gracious and kind to those we know and to those we don’t know. We are able to day by day, step by step build a better world. And that in itself helps to create the best possible future for ourselves, for our children, and for the world.