For family. The ones you would choose and the ones that were chosen. Sometimes, when you're lucky, they are one-&-the-same.
At 5PM on Saturday, October 10, 2020, we exchanged vows in front of the fifteen most important people in our lives. When we arrived at Oz Farm, the wooden signs covered in exclamations; arrows pointing in the direction of a stand was filled to the brim with warm cider and donuts. A bushel of sweet apples and programs wrapped in besamim (sweet cinnamon sticks, dried orange, and flowers) for our havdallah ceremony. Polaroid cameras and a book with our names scrolled across it; navy blue yalmukes with our names and the date. Each element a tiny prayer--a sweet whisper of forever.
The string trio played by the chuppah: a great arch covered in sunflowers and romantic creams and blues and, at cocktail hour, moved towards the bar. Sweet melodies filled the air like a promise. J and I read our vows below the canopy, Gil's tallis above us, like the covering of home and, right before Jordan's vows began, a gust of wind danced through the tallis, through to the breaking of the glass and the first kiss.
A secret note, from four winters ago. A promise of every day, forever.
We are getting married on the tenth day of the tenth month, in front of about ten people. And, even when it fells like making sense of a Covid wedding is untenable, I choose to focus on the marriage because a marriage is forever.
In theme with ten I started thinking about a marriage ten commandments. Now, turns out everyone and their mother has also had this idea. I found a lot of online-suggestions for marriage commandments, read articles by seasoned-pros and marriage veterans. I don't know much about what marriage will be, a simple neophyte, but I know who we are. And I know how far we will go to love each other. And so, I am writing the Ten Commandments, for our marriage. Fully understanding that, someday, I may look back at this and feel embarrassingly naive. But this is how it feels today (and I'm going with it).
I will love you.
I will assume the best and speak well of you.
I will always make time for the two of us.
I will always root for you and move mountains to support you.
I will be gentle and listen.
I will let you win and be a person of integrity.
I will always make time for dancing in the kitchen.
I will be honest and be willing to laugh at myself.
I will always help you and let you help me.
And, this one I've stolen from my vows, I will not only return these feelings of safety and comfort and love but also accept and acknowledge every effort that you make to create comfort and safety for me.
When they ask about the month before our wedding, I will tell them of hiking until our shoes turn brown (and soles flap off), of turning into a Masters Widow before our wedding, of sparkly, silver, I do shoes and wooden cake toppers who look like us. Of a lacy white dress and a navy vest that fits just so. Of wedding bands and writing vows; of calligraphy and sparklers and printed versions of programs and menus that we have been tinkering with for the better part of a year. Of cinnamon and pouring love stories onto postcards. Of Father of the Bride and My Best Friend's Wedding. Of baking cakes and counting down. Of surprise wedding gifts and sunflowers. When everything else has faded away, I'll still remember the way you scrunch your nose when I talk too much, how infectious your laugh is, and how, when the countdown added up to less than our four hands, your eyes looked like the North Star.
Before you remind us of the obvious; you’re right. Our October wedding is still two months away (exactly 60 days, if you were wondering). But, in the lost year of Covid, we have leaned into the romance. Three months ago, we got dressed up and legally married, in a perfect ceremony, just us two. This month, on August 1, we celebrated three months of secret wedded bliss by renewing our vows on the top of Deer Mountain Inn, just as we had imagined it when we planned our perfect wedding. Tears and improvised vows; the flower crown we just happened to have on hand. Polka dots and stripes. Wild and sweet. His and hers. Have and hold.
In two months, we will, again, renew our vows. A renewal on loop. Keeping our hearts full and our promises fresh. Forever has already started and it will never end.
We were together, I forget the rest.
A paraphrase. In Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman writes Day by day and night by night we were together--all else had long been forgotten by me.
Like most things, I prefer the original. The paraphrase might be pithier, and look sweeter on a tapestry, but it over-simplifies time.
This time in quarantine--day by day and night by night--has been the sweetest gift of togetherness. I don't say this to minimize the traumas of time, either. Much has been lost, or mis-timed, weddings, unveilings, birthdays, holidays--and tragic of all, deaths of loved ones. But it has given me a new awareness of time. How hours disappear before our very eyes; what I could do with, what feels like, bountiful time. How time can make a fool out of the most foolish. All the things that can go said, and unsaid, over time.
This time has given me space to be more introspective than I have probably wanted to be. To focus on gratitudes, decide which battles to fight and how to let go. It has given us the most eye-opening midnight talks. There's something about witching hour and how it brings out an honesty that daylight hides. I have been most grateful for these talks. This togetherness.
For me, the world has felt like it is splitting in a big, gaping, way. Microcosmically, I think my world has gotten used to factions. The last year has been a splitting. My childhood prompted a splitting...but, together. Him and I. When the world gets dark and the day washes over me--I forget the rest.
Tomorrow the countdown hits double-digits.
Since this countdown began, there have been so many changes to what I used to know. And, while my understanding of the world--of my world-- has been pushed and pulled in the past four-hundred-days, I know one thing to be true.
The only world that matters is the one we create here. How lucky am I, to have the whole world in my hand.
A year ago today, he asked me to marry him.
I've been counting down the days, determined for things to look forward to. And this is a big one. Marking a year since we moved from Brooklyn Heights; a year of the highest highs and some majorly low-lows. Some quite universal (ie: pandemic and subsequent quarantine) and some belonging solely to us. But, a year of being engaged--of getting used to the way fiancé curves the sides of my mouth, planning a wedding (and a wedding, and a wedding, and a wedding...and another wedding), finding myself in a permanent lock-step. Labels like these feel arbitrary, in some ways, and we talk about it often (especially now). I've been his since the first time he held my hand. But I don't think I would have been able to have gotten through this year without remembering how he asked.
How special it feels to look down at your left hand and know you belong to somebody.
And so I gave him a ring, to wear like a wedding band. Engraved with the words Somebody Loved; an homage to the song he sang to me before he proposed (one of my favorites by The Weepies). Because he belongs to somebody, too.
Inspired by Watty Piper, as an homage to one of my favorite childhood books and our own little wedding that appears to be coming together, in spite of everything.
Ding, ding, ding. Dong, dong, dong. The months ran along as the wedding plans started to unfurl. It was the happiest little wedding. A wedding full of good things for a loving boy and girl. There were all kinds of plans to make. An officiant, a wedding dress, and even live music for the evening. There were all kinds of ceremonies. They chose the ketubah with a watercolor husband and wife under the chuppah and a garden full of sunflowers, yalkmukes to match the boy's tie, and even planned a havdallah service. There were welcome baskets, wooden signs, and invitations. There were fire pits, lawn games, and chuppahs. The little wedding carried every fairytale the boy and girl could imagine. But that was not all. The little wedding carried good things to eat, too. Ornate wedding cakes, s'mores, charcuterie boards, some sort of fish...and finger foods for the afterparty. The little wedding was taking all these good things to its first wedding venue.
“How happy the boy and girl will be to have this special day!” said the little wedding. “They will like the celebrations and hoopla I am bringing.” But all at once the wedding came to a stop. It could not happen at all. “Oh, dear,” said the little wedding. “What can be the matter?” It tried to start up again. It tried and tried. But its wheels just would not turn. “We can help,” said the celebrations, binders full of wedding plans and hands full of confetti. It tried to push the little wedding. But it did not move. “We can help, too,” said the hoopla. And it got out and tried to push. Still the little wedding did not move. The celebrations and hoopla did not know what to do.
Just then a shiny new wedding venue came puffing down another track. “Maybe that wedding can help us!” cried the plans. It began to wave a red flag. The Shiny New Wedding slowed down. The celebrations and hoopla called out to it. “Our wedding is not working,” they said. “Please help make sense of our wedding plans! If you do not, the boy and girl will not have any way to honor their love." The Shiny New Wedding was a bit friendly. But it was a New Yorker so that kindness was limited. “You want me to help you?” it asked. “You would have to make all new plans and the room would be smaller. You would have a beautiful view of the park but a limited menu and, it would be very expensive but absolutely nothing would be included. I help the likes of you? I should say not!” Off went the Shiny New Wedding without another word.
How sad the ceremony and hoopla felt! Then the plans called out, “Here comes another wedding. A big, strong one. Maybe this wedding will help us.” Again the plans waved their flag. The Big Strong Wedding came to a stop. The celebrations and hoopla called out together, “Please help us, Big Strong Wedding. Our wedding is not working. You must help us. Or the boy and girl will not have any way to honor their love” But the Big Strong Wedding, though it wanted to help, had to shut itself down for the rest of the year. “I did not plan on the coronavirus,” it said. “And now that it's here, I understand why you wouldn't be able to have your wedding. But, unless you wish to reschedule for another year, I have no time for the likes of you.” And away puffed the Big Strong Wedding without another word. By this time the little wedding was no longer happy. And all of the plans were strewn on the floor and the boy and girl were ready to cry.
But the plans called out, “Look! Look! Another wedding is coming. A little intimate wedding. A very little one. Maybe this wedding will help us.” The Little Intimate Wedding was a happy wedding. It saw the plans waving their red flag and stopped at once. “What is the matter?” it asked in a kind way. “Oh, Little Intimate Wedding,” cried the celebrations and hoopla. “Will you please help us make sense of our wedding plans! Our wedding is not working. If you do not, the boy and girl will not have any way to honor their love!"
“Please, please help us.”
“Oh, my,” said the Little Intimate Wedding. “I am not very big. And I am an airbnb. I don't usually hold weddings. I have never had to deal with a quarantine before.”
“But we must be able to honor this day,” said the celebrations and hoopla. “Please?”
The Little Intimate Wedding looked at the celebrations and hoopla. It could see that they were not happy. It thought about the loving boy and girl who desperately wanted to be married. Without any way to honor their special day, they would not be happy either. The Little Intimate Wedding pulled up close. It took hold of the wedding plans. The celebrations and hoopla climbed back into their cars. At last the Little Intimate Wedding said, “I think I can get you to your wedding day and help you stick to your plan. I think I can. I think I can.”
Then the Little Intimate Wedding began to pull. It tugged and it pulled. It pulled and it tugged. It cancelled wedding plans and fought with vendors. It cried and screamed and tried to make sense of all of the things that had happened before it. It looked for goodness.
Ding, ding. Dong, dong went the little wedding. “I think I can. I think I can,” it said. Slowly, slowly, the plans started to move. The celebrations and hoopla began to smile and clap. Ding, ding. Dong, dong. Closer to the wedding day went the Little Intimate Wedding. It started making plans again. And all the time it kept saying, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…” Plans, plans, plans. The little wedding climbed and climbed. At last it reached the four-month mark.
Down below lay the final pieces and the fruits of all of their love and hard-work. “Hurray! Hurray!” cried the celebrations and hoopla. “The loving boy and girl will be so happy,” said the wedding plans. “All because you helped us, Little Intimate Wedding.” The Little Intimate Wedding just smiled. But as it puffed down the mountain, the Little Intimate Wedding seemed to say… “I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could."
Here's to the thinking. The hoping. The Little Wedding that Could.
I don't talk much about the wedding anymore. Not in the way I used to; the intense glowing enthusiasm of a pre-burn. I'm afraid, tempting the evil eye any further may jinx what's left of the original plan. And I say what's left because when we decided to elope, with our immediate families, we also decided that so much of what we had planned were now requisites for a wedding. In some ways, that's been a welcome challenge: airbnb wedding that has the same heart and feel of the magical inn weekend we dreamed up together. Same ceremony, less people. Same afterparty, less people. Same first dance and musicians and florists and photographers, and wedding dress... less people.
So, really, what we're talking about here is scale.
And some of the changes really excite me--and I will be writing about all of them individually, eventually, but for now, here's a short list: I am officially making our wedding cake, our airbnb is seven acres and three cottages and it's a weekend where we get to have full-autonomy.
According to The Jewish Wedding Now by Anita Diamant, planning your wedding is such a reflection of the love you have for your partner and I've taken that very seriously. I have read and annotated that book, ridiculously, and keep referring to it, especially for the ceremony. For Jordan and I, the ceremony is the most important part and we really want to honor the religious and spiritual aspects of our union. We are still writing our own vows and have played a big part of piecing together a ceremony that feels like us.
And some of the changes make me a little sad; family members whose presence, together in the same space, has always been indicative of a big milestone, who won't be there or dance the hora with us or stand as I walk down the aisle and friends who we knew would make our wedding such an amazing party. In the land of what might have been, I could have closed my eyes and described Deer Mountain Inn in excruciating detail; where people were going to enter, exit, dance, move. Where the sparklers would go off and where we would share our first dance. Alternate-reality wedding would have been spectacular but, I know, this wedding will be pretty great, too.
Because on whatever day we sign the ketubah, and our marriage is real and binding, is the best day.