| Musings |

Magic in the Middle

When I hear that the kallah is 21, I’m surprised. Since when do 21-year-olds look so young?

IT hasn’t been so long since our wedding. We’re still a young couple. Practically newlyweds. We look exactly the same as we looked in our wedding pictures (well, almost exactly). We’re still using plenty of the things we purchased or received as gifts when we got married.

We’re inexperienced in so many ways, still discovering the world of adults. Yes, we’ve figured out quite a bit — we’ve learned about getting into school, and we’ve nailed taxes. We’ve picked up the basics of babyhood and we’ve vanquished leaky sinks.

But there’s still so much we don’t know. We really are at the beginning of our journey in adulthood.

So when a wedding invitation arrives in the mail, I admire it. It’s much fancier than mine was. It doesn’t occur to me that it’s been a while since I’ve seen a wedding invitation. Instead, I think, Hmm, must be a trendy kallah! It doesn’t cross my mind that invitation styles have changed since my friends and I were getting married. It was just recently, after all.

I don’t recognize the name of the hall either. It wasn’t around when we got married. But there are some new halls that have sprung up in the wake of Covid, and I assume this is one of them.

When I get to the hall, the first thing that strikes me (other than the music vibrating in my eardrums) is how this must be an especially young kallah. Her friends all look like schoolgirls, and the styles! I don’t recognize the styles.

When I hear that the kallah is 21, I’m surprised. Since when do 21-year-olds look so young? Twenty-one is about my age.

It takes me a moment for it to register. If I’ve been out of high school for ten years, then 21 isn’t about my age.

Oh. Right.

But we’re still a young couple! We look the same as we did in our wedding pictures! And we’re so fresh and dewy and new to the game!!

During the dancing, I’m surprised again. What are these dance songs? I don’t know a single one. All the girls dancing up a storm around me are belting out the words with great joy and energy. A strange feeling worms its way into my chest. I knew all the wedding songs when my friends and I were getting married. It wasn’t that long ago.

How quickly do these things change?

Apparently more quickly than I’d thought.

It’s all those new singers, probably — the bands can hardly start playing the new songs before the newer ones are out.

We’ve been married for just eight years. Our oldest is only in second grade! We’re still very close to the chassan-kallah stage.

But as the evening wears on, everywhere I turn tells me that actually, maybe, we already have a foot out of that stage.

My husband is in his thirties. I myself am approaching that number… but it doesn’t feel like that’s something so significant.

Though, thinking about it now, we do have a family, baruch Hashem. Newlyweds don’t have a bunch of kids. Newlyweds aren’t caring for those kids as they run their home, pay bills, take care of bureaucracy and homework and dentist appointments and feverish babies, behavioral techniques, evaluations, hearing tests, and the occasional broken bone.

Maybe we’re grown-ups and not newlyweds after all?

I look at this kallah, and I feel like we’re at the same stage, but… I guess we’re not.

The hour grows late. I head out into the night air and walk toward my bus stop. I feel confused, as if part of my identity has been ripped away. I don’t know the music, the fashions, and the world of the kallah in that hall.

I trudge ahead, feeling suddenly heavy. When I’d walked into the hall, I thought I knew who I was, where I was holding in life. But now I’m not sure at all.

If I’m not a kallah, then what am I? I ponder this question as I rub my hands together against the night chill and wait for my bus to come. I contemplate the difference between myself and the bride in the hall.

It’s her night to sparkle in the limelight, while I wait alone at a cold and dark bus stop.

She’s dancing the night away. I feel exhaustion and weariness creeping in, reminding me of the adorable blessing who likes to keep me up at night.

She’s in a magical world where it’s just her and her new husband.

I’m in a mundane world; there’s me, my husband, our precious children, and the dirty dishes.

She’s entering a world where everything is unknown. And while I may still be at the beginning of my life’s journey, I’m beginning to realize I’ve learned things in the decade that separates me from tonight’s kallah.

I’ve learned to create and maintain a stable, strong, and beautiful bond with my husband.

I’ve learned what it means to be blessed to bring life into the world, an experience accompanied by pain and challenge, but ultimately joyous.

I’ve learned to put aside my own wants and desires for smaller, more vulnerable people, so needy in their helplessness.

I’ve learned just how much a heart can grow and stretch with each miraculous addition to our family.

I’ve learned I can do more laundry in a week than I ever thought possible.

I’ve learned how much deeper and more meaningful a relationship with a spouse can be when you work side by side to build your home, your eternity, even when the magic has faded and the mundane has taken over.

I’ve learned how much more connected you can be with your spouse after weathering some of life’s curveballs together.

Yes, I’m still young. My life stretches ahead of me with so many things to still learn, so much potential to still unleash.

I’m no longer a kallah. But I’ve learned a lot since I was.

And though the glittery dust of being a newlywed has settled, there is so much glitter at my stage.

As I settle into my seat for the long bus ride home, I leave the kallah to the sparkle of her stage of life. I’m ready to embrace mine.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 820)

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