Our wedding

Our wedding

Yes. It was a while ago. Sixty-four years plus a few days, to be exact.

So what brings it up now that we’re both, chatan and kallah, rather ancient? Can’t we just let go of the memories of the past and jump right into the present? The future, on the other hand, is a bit intimidating. At our ages the past is reality and the future is, at best, maybe tentative, or, at worst, completely nonexistent. That’s what it’s like to be old. Don’t look too far ahead. You’ll strain your head, all for nothing!

But to answer my own question, what brings up our wedding right now? It’s the video! That film, in color but without sound, of the actual marriage ceremony that our Grandson Number 1 surprised us with on our anniversary, June 4. Years ago, he transferred the entire hour of 8 mm film into a usable, contemporary rendition. On the day of our anniversary, I opened my WhatsApp and there it was for all to see. Thank you, Eitan!

And there was me, maybe 30 pounds lighter (okay, I lie, 40 pounds lighter), with the horrible wedding hairdo. That was a story! I had been practicing for the wedding day for months and found a local stylist, right around the corner on Lyons Avenue, who did a nice job without making my hair too gaudy. No giant curls and nothing teased, just nice and simple. On the big day itself, I walked in and was greeted by the owner of the salon, all giggles and glee, who announced that she would do my hair on that special day. And she did. Today, I would have not been intimidated and would have told her that I wanted the regular beautician to do it, that she knew exactly what I wanted. Then I was a mere 20-year-old, far far less likely to argue or rock the boat, especially with a bona fide adult. And so she took charge of my long hair and made what looked like a hot water bottle on the top. It was horrible and the video attests to just that. Maybe Eitan can edit the film and chop off my head, or at least my hair, for posterity!

My spouse-to-be was dressed to the nines in a rented white dinner jacket, which I recall was the high style of a 1960 chatan’s wedding attire. He looked spiffy, young — and at 22 he was seriously young — and handsome, with a shiny white satin kippah topping him off.

It struck me that wedding photographers have not advanced very far in their art. The script in 1960 was not very dissimilar to the scripts today. First they focus on the couple, embracing in some scenic spot, usually adjacent to the wedding venue. In my case the wedding venue was my former school, the Hebrew Academy of Essex County, which had become a catering hall called Steiners.

A couple of outdoorsy shots and then they veer to the bride, usually “catching” her doing something totally silly, like fixing her garter (her garter!) until the plot thickens and she is joined by her parents, giggling and hugging and then waving good-bye, so her in-law parents can repeat the same scene, with the same script. This is followed by siblings, and on and on it goes, completely boring — until you watch it, say 64 years later, and realize that it is a jewel indeed, that most of these dearly loved people, wearing their finery, are no longer walking this earth, and that these film clips are all that remain of them.

I see my parents come alive. Neither one of them has any gray hair. They wear broad smiles. Were they ever really so young? In their 40s? What great power these movies have, to bring us back to treasured times that were. How precious they are!

When I recall my parents now, today, they are as I remember them when they were old. Dad lived to almost 98. He was a robust man for sure, walking all over Herzliya despite whatever nasty weather accompanied him, but he was a half century leap forward from the vibrant man on our wedding video, and the memories that linger with me are of him as an old man, not the dark-haired guy effortlessly jacking up his car to change a lifetime series of flat tires. The last memories are the ones that stick around! Only the video can be trusted to bring him back!
And it does.

Mom is a beautiful young matron in the wedding pictures, tastefully dressed, broadly smiling and healthy, bearing no resemblance to the ancient shriveled person who died in the Kfar Saba nursing home, unable to remember what she had for breakfast, although I continue to marvel at her perfect ear for grammar, albeit in English only. Hebrew always found her in Kitah Aleph, first grade! But until her very last day, she was tuned into linguistics. The contrast of Mom at our wedding and on the day she died is painful, until I force myself to remember that she reached old age with very few obstacles to impede her.

The story repeats itself for most of those who danced at our wedding. Only a few stragglers remain. We attended many funerals of those who rejoiced with us on that momentous day, through the many intervening years.

But can these be the thoughts that accompany us to joyous events? No. Of course not. Life is bifurcated. And it would be pretty depressing if our good moments, our great smachot, were always reminding us that our happiness is temporary, fleeting, and elusive. Yes, yes, it is, but that’s the reason we focus on counting our rosebuds, on living in search of glad times. The other times will find us, whether we are ready or not.

So now let’s watch the hora on our wedding video, stamping our feet as the floor to the now nonexistent catering hall trembles and shares our jubilation. Mazal tov to us, the bride and groom, 64 years later!

Rosanne Skopp of West Orange is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of 14, and great-grandmother of seven. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. She is a lifelong blogger, writing blogs before anyone knew what a blog was! She welcomes email at rosanne.skopp@gmail.com

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