| LifeTakes |

Missing Her

It was a beautiful wedding, it really was. So what’s this pit in my stomach? Why are my eyes blurring?


Every Jewish wedding has a familiar pattern, but at this wedding of my friend’s son, I notice the differences first.

Unlike the New York weddings I’d grown up attending, this Israeli event has an outdoor chuppah set against a stark desert background of stones and sand. Od Yishamah rings out with that extra bar that still jars my American ears, and the vibrant spices and plentitude of dips at the waiting tables are clearly Mideastern.

Then I notice the two babbis. The music is thumping, the circles swirling with rhythm and color and life but—

I keep looking at those babbis.

They’re wearing blonde sheitels, the kind with the structured pouffiness which, my grandmother once told me, no 100-percent human hair model can ever really achieve. Each sheitel has that strenuously teased front that my grandmother used to perfect with her navy-blue teasing comb, the one with the five metal spikes at the end.

The two babbis wear elegant dark gowns with just the right smattering of sequins, not too much so as to be gaudy, not too few as to downplay the importance of the occasion. And, of course, each babbi holds a matching clutch. Jackie Kennedy couldn’t have pulled it off better herself.

I miss my grandmother.

One of the blonde babbis has a cane and can’t dance much. The granddaughters know what to do: They dance in front of her and around her, waving hands and linen napkins and beaming in the reflected affection and pride of their perfectly made-up and coiffed matriarch. Her legs may be too weak to celebrate, but we can all see that there’s a strength, a certain courage, that’s propelled her this far.

The other babbi is able to dance, and there’s such a genuine bond in that full embrace between her and a granddaughter who’d grown up on a continent so very distant, in so many ways, from her own childhood home. I take in the grace and élan spilling from every lively step she takes, there in the middle of the circle, and I know — although I can’t pinpoint exactly why — that the gentle swaying belies a firm resolve. That amid disappointment, trials, and loss, this woman possesses the fortitude to keep smiling, keep building.

I really, really miss my grandmother.

The music changes from traditional classics to the modern hits. The younger set forms a tight circle, and we mothers awkwardly form our own. I don’t see the grandmothers anymore; they must have found a place to sit down and catch their breath, or maybe to touch up their lipstick.

My grandmother always said, just because you’re having a hard day doesn’t mean everyone else has to suffer too. Put on your lipstick, put on your smile, and go greet the world.

The wedding moves along. There are people to chat with, food to eat, introductions to new faces and catching up with familiar ones. More dancing, a peek at the chassan on the other side of the mechitzah, a smile at the kallah dodging confetti and glitter. A last mazel tov wish to my friend.

I grab my phone and my bag, make my way to the exit. The music is still pumping, but now the tempo is in the distance. The night air is cool. A new couple is starting their life together surrounded by family and friends and two blonde babbis wishing them mazel and brachah, fusing them to the past as they take their first steps forward.

I dial my home number and assure the kids I’m on my way. I’ll be there soon. Please switch the laundry from the washing machine to the dryer. Yes, it was a beautiful wedding. Make sure Shimmy is in bed.

It was a beautiful wedding, it really was. So what’s this pit in my stomach? Why are my eyes blurring?

I hope and pray to bring my own children to the chuppah in the coming years, amid joy and dancing and that thumping, pumping music. I hope they too will be surrounded by those circles of family and friends and neighbors wishing them well, dancing them into their new lives with exultation.

But that woman with the perfectly teased blonde sheitel and coordinated gown-and-clutch ensemble, she’ll be watching from On High. She won’t be there to dance with us, to embrace us, to sprinkle us with the largesse of her natural grace along with a few droplets of Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium.

It was a beautiful wedding, and I really miss my grandmother.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 752)

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