As a new year dawns, what did we learn — and how have we changed?
Last year I thought:
As much as I wanted to see my daughter under the chuppah, I’m really not looking forward to making a wedding.
That sounds bad. To clarify, I love simchahs! Other people’s simchahs… where I can come and go as I please, be as sociable or as silent as I wish. But the idea of smiling and talking, and nodding and talking, and hugging and talking some more… my windpipe constricts at the thought. Not to mention the pressure of making sure Great-Aunt K. receives her gluten-free, low-salt, no-flavor, vegetarian meal, and that Cousin Batya — who schlepped in from Karmiel — finds a seat.
Last year I thought that when you do the hosting, you must stay up nights figuring out the logistics — stuffing your hard drive with Excel lists, emails to the entire world (and some), and enough bridal-gown photos to create a catalogue. But your heart must remain empty and bland because when you’re swept off your feet running two thousand errands, who has time to feel?
Last year I thought: While all I want is to dance with my daughter, pray for her welfare, and drink in the joy of the moment, there’s no such thing as a perfect simchah; not when you’re the one doing the hosting.
This year I learned
that the perfect simchah really does exist.
I learned that a simchah can be made in my cousin’s backyard, with the setting sun as our glowing chandelier, and the Judean Hills a surreal backdrop.
I learned that you can tell your friends and neighbors that you love them dearly (and you do!), but you’ll be happy to receive their mazel tov wishes by email, or over the phone.
I learned that you can cry as much as you want when you walk your daughter to the chuppah, because who cares?! The only guests who will see your smudged mascara are the ones who understand your tears.
I learned that when you can’t welcome your guests in a hall, then your best friends and neighbors welcome you into their homes, and your simchah expands to meet the vast goodness of their hearts.
I learned that when you set up the band in your neighbor’s backyard because you can’t have more than 20 guests in a room, then the speakers spread the joy so loudly that the entire neighborhood dances with you.
I learned that when the hullaballoo dies down, the dishes are piled up in your kitchen, your dining room looks like an upended dumpster, and the borrowed chairs need to be hauled back to their rightful owners, you suddenly realize that in the insane rush of organizing a wedding seudah in under 18 hours’ notice, you never got the chance to have your picture taken with the kallah.
But here, now, somehow… it doesn’t even matter.
Because I learned once again what I’ve always wanted to know: that the spirit is so much stronger than fabrics, flowers, or five-course dinners. It’s stronger, even, than that crucial wedding photo and the memories I wish to hold on to.
Because the spirit lives in the here and now: in the joy of seeing a miracle unfold, in the creation of a new generation.
S.T. Agam is a writer, translator, and copywriter living in Israel.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 828)
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