Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Av 5764 - July 28, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

The Wedding We Didn't Go To
by Sudy Rosengarten

Papa's youngest brother, Uncle Jerry, was getting married. In those days, a wedding was a strictly adult affair. The only time that a child attended a wedding was if he was either a brother, sister, niece or nephew of the bride or groom. Otherwise, it was clearly understood that children were never brought along. Our Uncle Jerry's getting married was the greatest thing that could happen to us, because now, for the first time in our lives, we would go to a wedding.

Rosie and I were in seventh heaven. Mama immediately took us both to the fanciest store on Delancey Street and bought us the fluffiest, most gorgeous white and pink organza dresses for the occasion.

But, despite all our excitement and preparations, Rosie and I never got to Uncle Jerry's wedding. Our fluffy new organza dresses ended up hanging on the nail in the boarder's room, and we ended up lying in the boarder's bed with a bad case of measles.

We were feverish and miserable. This was the one event that all children looked forward to all their lives! And here our own uncle was getting married and we couldn't even attend. That meant that until we ourselves got married, we would never attend a wedding because with no other single uncles around, this had been our only chance.

We cried ourselves sick till Mama, in desperation, promised us that come what may, she would take us along to the very next wedding that she was invited to. We were appeased.

I lay in the musty smelling room, two bleak windows looking out on the same bleak yard that all our other rooms faced. A pile of bedding towered in one corner, covered by a piece of tapestry cloth, a huge wardrobe stood on the wall opposite me alongisde a huge dresser with blackened mirror.

The mattress was springy, the pillows were huge, filled with the feathers and down of white geese. Mama could never figure out why the Hungarian ladies in the building were always making such a big fuss over the old country pillows and quilts. As far as she was concerned, if you did an honest day's work, you could fall alseep with any kind of pillow, or none at all. What difference did it make if the pillow was filled with feathers or down, so long as you were healthy, and were able to greet people with a kind word and a genuine smile.

But as poor as they were, Babika and her old country clan looked down their nose on this kind of talk. You were missing class if things like linen, bedding, dishes and cut glass were not important to you; and even if you had nothing else, those were the things that mattered.

I could hear Rosie, a stage ahead of me in recuperation, together with her friend in the room at the other end of the apartment, laughing and screaming and having a ball. I lay back, miserable with fever, lonely and unhappy. I wanted Mama, and was angry that she had gone to the wedding and left me alone. "Mama, stay with me," I had begged. "I'm so sick."

"Rosie is here, and the big girl from upstairs, and Mrs. Pollack will look in on you every few minutes." She pleaded with me, "Please, Sudy, you know I have to go to the wedding."

I was sure that she did. It was different when people loved one another. Then, whatever they did was understood and forgiven. But when relationships were strained to begin with, you did the things that were expected of you because otherwise, you were guilty and would never be freed of the sin and slight that you had caused, though, in essence, maybe nobody even cared.

So Mama went to the wedding and I lay in bed, calling to Rosie to come play in the room where I lay alone. I called and called. All I heard in answer was the laughter and singing and shouting and giggling that came to me in a great rush, but no answer to my call that continued on and on, till exhausted from rage and fever, face stained with tears of real self pity at my total neglect, I must have fallen asleep.

When I awoke, Mama was beside herself, rubbing me down with alcohol, tying ice packs to my head and praying that I not catch a draft. I was so hoarse from all the yelling for Rosie to keep me company that I could scarcely speak, but babbled incoherently about the miserable time I had had all alone, lying and crying for help and companionship in vain, while Rosie was laughing and playing, unmindful of my misery.

When we were completely better, to compensate for our not being at her wedding, Ethel, our new aunt, invited us up to her new house and offered to knit us each a sweater. She had chosen a rainbow wool so that it wouldn't show the dirt. We came for several fittings until they were finished.

Not long afterwards, an invitation arrived for Babika, Papa and Mama to attend the wedding of one of Papa's cousins. True to her word, Mama again reassured us that, invited or not, we would come along.

The day of the wedding arrived. One of Babika's nephews came to take her to the wedding by cab; we went by subway. Rosie and I were all dolled up in the dresses we hadn't worn to Uncle Jerry's wedding. Her hair was done up in Shirley Temple bottle curls that were then in style; mine was still straight, despite the curlers I had lain in all night. But who had time to even be disappointed when we were anticipating the exciting events of the subway ride to the Bronx, the wedding, the family, the music and the dancing, the time together with both of our parents, in itself an outing that happened so seldom.

We would hear the music from the corner and as we entered, we saw that that wedding was already in full swing. We stood in the doorway, taking it all in; the tremendous hall, the magnificent crystals, the grandeur and royalty, the surging happiness, the dancing. We stood, tapping our own toes to the music. Several cousins nodded to us but no one came over to where we stood in the doorway, waiting to be greeted and invited inside. Finally Mama noticed the mother of the bride and called out, "Blunka!" but Blunka just smiled and waved to us and continued on her way.

"That wasn't nice," Mama said to no one in particular, and swallowed hard.

"What did you expect her to do?" Papa asked. "She's busy with the guests."

"That's exactly what I'm talking about. We're her guests. Why didn't she come over and greet us?"

"Give her a chance," Papa said. "Maybe she'll come back."

After a short, gesticulating conversation with the mother of the bride, one cousin did, finally, come over to greet Papa and Mama, and then said, "Oh, you brought the children! But everyone knows you don't bring children along to weddings!"

Whenever Mama is humiliated, her eyes and nose get very red and puffy, which happened then. As many times as she opened her mouth to answer, she had to close it again, a funny grinding sound coming out in place of words. Finally, Mama pulled herself together and said that if that was the kind of welcome we could expect, whether or not the children had been invited, whether or not they had done the right thing in taking us, she didn't want any part of that family. And she pulled us all after her: we in near tears, Papa in a fury.

"Where are you going?" he demanded.

"What difference does it make? I don't want to be any place where my children are not welcome."

"But Lillie, they really weren't invited."

"So what? We were here already. Who needs them, anyhow?" Mama finally said with disgust. "We can have our own good time without them."

Papa kept looking back to see if anyone was coming to call us but the street was empty and all we could hear was the happy strains of music, the tinkling of silver and the clinking of dishes. Mama lifted her hand to hail a cab and told him to take us all to Farber's restaurant on Houston St. where only the elite ate.

Papa didn't say a word the whole time that we sped back to the East Side, the meter running up the fare at what seemed a fantastically rapid rate. When we arrived at the restaurant, following the silent, angry ride, Mama gave the cabbie his fare, tipping him an extra dollar, at which Papa squinted in true horror, and we all walked into the restaurant, as if marching down the aisle of our own wedding.

We were very self-conscious all the time as we ordered from a menu that we didn't understand but dared not ask the waiter to decipher for us, lest our lowly bearings be discovered. Mama said she wasn't hungry, and just ate the roll on the bread dish, but kept asking us if we wanted this or that, names of dishes that we certainly didn't know and suspected she didn't either.

After the meal there were ices and cake; and this time, having seen the way Mama tipped the taxi driver, Papa said that he would take care of the bill, leaving a quarter on the table for the waiter. Mama looked at him with pity.

"Look, the man has been running around to serve us for almost an hour. He gets a measly salary, probably has a household of children to feed and clothe. How can you just leave a quarter?" and Mama took out another and placed it alongside Papa's. Being in a good mood after the meal, Papa didn't make a fuss so that when Mama thought he wasn't looking, she pressed another quarter into the waiter's hand when he passed.

Then we all walked home, so happy to be together. Papa said that maybe we shouldn't have left the wedding so fast. Maybe they really didn't mean that remark about the children, but even if they did...

At that, Mama said, "Yeah, your family is always right." But then she stopped and reconsidered. "You know what, Hershele? Let's forget what happened at the wedding. We had a wonderful time and let it remain at that."


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