Today has been such a wonderful day! I’m going to sum up today in just one post, so it’s going to be long – consider yourself forewarned!
We started the day by getting ready for my mother’s wedding. Originally it was scheduled for mid October, but at the beginning of August they moved the date to today so that my dd15 would be able to be there before leaving to study abroad for the year. My mother realized how important it was to dd15 to be there, and felt that it was important that all of our kids be there. It meant a lot of extra time pressure for them and because it overlapped with this very busy time for our family, I really wasn’t able to be of much help in planning. Fortunately, there were a number of wonderful friends who were there for them and were just incredible in the level of help and support they offered. I actually think it was good that I couldn’t be involved since it gave my mother a chance to see how many people really cared about her.
Figuring out what everyone should wear was the biggest challenge the night before, since I didn’t have time to do any wedding shopping, so I relied on ‘shopping’ in my attic, which served me well for the boys. The girls went out to a thrift store late Friday afternoon and found a couple of items – they decided they all wanted to wear black and white so they’d match. Even though I would have preferred more color for the little boys, I went ahead and dressed them all in black pants, white shirts, and dark vests. They looked very cute, and it was definitely easy to color coordinate them.
Anyway, my mom spent Shabbos with us and asked if I’d take her to the wedding, which I was very happy to do. Initially I thought I’d go myself, take her to the synagogue where the ceremony was being held, and then go back for the kids. But in the end we all piled into the car to get her. As soon as she opened the door to the van, everyone broke out into singing for her. We got there early for photos, and I got to meet her fiance’s family members; they were a little apprehensive about the unfamiliarity of an Orthodox wedding ceremony, but were lovely people.
It was a beautiful wedding – everyone remarked on it. I keep thinking about it, trying to put my finger on what was so special about it. Everything was done nicely, but it was a simple event, not in a fancy hall or with extravagant catering or a huge crowd of people. The chupah was held on the front lawn of the synagogue, under a chupa loaned and set up by a friend. (Afterward I asked the man it belonged to how many weddings it had been used for, and he led me underneath and showed me an embroidered square with the name, date, and location for each couple that had so far used it – it was about eight so far.
The food set up and clean up, and much more than just that, was orchestrated by a wonderful family who both my mother and her new husband are close with. There was a nice but not huge group of people attending – about 100 for the meal and more for the chupah and dancing, but I’m not sure how much more. But everything about it was just so nice. I think a big part it was was the obvious happiness of the couple, and the palpable support of family and friends. It’s really only people who can create the environment, not the location or price of the food.
A few people asked me how it felt to be ‘marrying off’ my mother. (Our kids all walked down the aisle, and I was the one by her side where traditionally a mother would be.) My answer is that it didn’t feel strange at all – I’m so happy for my mother to have found such a wonderful person to spend the rest of her life with. My mother has often marveled at my relationship with my husband over these last eighteen years. Several times she’s asked me how I did it, and my first answer is always that I married a wonderful person, and that’s the most important thing. She told me recently she finally understood what I meant; she was able to now see that marriage doesn’t have to be constant hard work and realize how much easier marriage could be when you marry someone who you have a strong and meaningful emotional connection with.
We look at it as our family growing – the kids have a new grandfather, and his mother we’ve dubbed ‘Grandma (firstname); his brother and sister are now aunts and uncles. He doesn’t have any children from his previous marriage and has inherited a large and very active family – us! Fortunately his family seems to like us (my kids overheard his mother talking about them to and she kept saying how wonderful they were, so it seems they’re happy wit the family he’s marrying into!)
We left the house at 9:45 am, the wedding started at 11 am, and though it was officially scheduled for two hours, we didn’t get home until about 3:30. Since I had the upsherin (birthday party for three year old boy) scheduled for 5 pm, it didn’t leave me much time to get ready. I asked dd15 to quickly whip up a cake, chose to forgo shopping for fruit and vegetable platters, and used apple and orange juice left from the wedding for beverages. I had purchased a good bit of snack foods during my monthly shopping trip a couple of weeks ago. After less than half hour getting the house and food on track, as well as putting the littles in for a nap, I left the girls to put together some snack trays while I went down the block to the engagement party of a neighbor’s son (who was in my carpool just three years ago!). (Dd15 came with me but only stayed long enough to verbalize her congratulations.) I stayed there for about a half hour, then came back about 35 minutes before the upsherin.
Ds3 was so exhausted that he had fallen asleep on the couch immediately after we came home from the wedding, and I was concerned that he’d be so groggy that he’d be out of sorts when he woke up. But fortunately he woke up fairly smoothly after the house started filling up – the excitement of all the people definitely helped! Since it was at the house and I have so much going on now that I didn’t want to create a huge pressure for myself, we didn’t invite a large crowd. We invited grandparents, and three families, two of which were large. But we had almost 40 people there (including my family, of course!) even though we kept it small. This is the first time that we’ve had an upsherin with anyone from outside of the family present. And it was really nice. Ds did great sitting calmly while about 35 people cut snips of his long blond hair. It was a lovely party which we all enjoyed.
Ds17 managed to get a ride from NY at 4 am from a friend of my mother’s – it was a last minute arrangement which I was so grateful for. The day he went to NY for yeshiva, there was a major fire that affected the train routes, and when he got to his transfer point, he was stranded for a couple of hours until he ended up getting a cab with a couple of other people to the final train stop. We found out late Friday afternoon that the damage still hadn’t been repaired and therefore the train that connects him to Manhattan still wasn’t running. We really weren’t sure how to get him home in time for the wedding. Because he’s so new there, he’s not yet familiar with subways and buses, and the times were so tight (he needed to arrive here by 10 am, meaning he needed to leave Manhattan before 7 am, and it takes 90 minutes to get into Manhattan from where he is) that there was no margin for error. I mentioned my dilemma to my mom on Shabbos, and she told me she had a friend coming from the general area for the wedding. She wasn’t sure how far away it was, or what their schedule was, but immediately after Shabbos she made a couple of calls and her friend agreed to pick ds up from his dorm (at 4 am).
This was a major blessing, since he got here 8 am, went straight to synagogue for morning services, and was back exactly in time to leave with us to pick up my mother. And this wonderful couple offered to take him back tonight, and that’s what they did – and thanks to their offer, he was able to take substantially more than he could have taken on the bus in one suitcase. That was great since he only took enough clothing for the first few days, and now was able to take some bulky things he was missing, like a blanket (he only took sheets).
I really didn’t have time to have a meaningful conversation with ds17 at all today (or any of the other kids, for that matter), since we were busy with one thing after another. I told him I’m looking forward to hearing lots about everything when he comes home for Sukkos – but fortunately when we spoke on the phone several times in the last week, his overwhelming feedback is that he’s extremely happy in yeshiva. He told me during one of those conversations that everyone is very positive about homeschooling; the peer feedback is that they think he was lucky, that it’s great/cool. People have repeatedly been surprised at how young he is and that he’s so mature – he was chatting with a 20 year old at breakfast, and at the end the young man said, “I can’t believe I’ve just had an intelligent conversation over breakfast!” He mentioned today that he already has a reputation, so I asked him, “As the boy who homeschooled?” He said, “No, as a ‘shtarke bochur’ (used to describe someone who is serious about his studies) – that’s how his rebbi introduced him to his wife, and how his learning partner introduced him to someone else. It’s such a delight to hear in his voice how happy he is about literally everything. (I was chatting with dh about this, and I told him, “That’s our secret – deprive them of things everyone else forces down their throat – eg, yeshiva, and then they feel so lucky when we finally let them have it!”)
I finished the day by taking dd15 to an appointment to try to clear up some things before she leaves in a couple of days. We got home quite late at night, but are all glad we can look back on today as a wonderfully full and special day.