A week ago, Labor Day weekend beckoned happily. Four days off with no work intrusions, where I could focus on a new writing project; a TV show that I am developing ala Cougel. I needed to make a dent in the TV pilot script – a format that is different than book writing, as it’s not internal but rather visual, and I’m rusty. It’s been more than a decade since I’ve written anything in that format. The rules are very specific, the page count intentional, the writing sparing. My goal was to get started.
But as the famous maxim goes, “Man plans, God laughs.” My beloved cousin, who is like a brother to my two sisters and me (we grew up together in NJ) was getting married that weekend. To the love of his life, the two of them having journeyed long and far, from rock bottom and back up, their paths crossing and mis-crossing until it was their time – to have arrived at this significant moment. He proposed to her on the roof of my former apartment building, overlooking Manhattan’s skyline at sunset. The tears started then.
When a family member of mine gets married, this means two things:
1) A plane load of Israelis; Aunts and uncles, and more cousins. My father has three brothers and their children are also like siblings to me. We spent every summer together in Israel since I was a toddler, playing soccer in dusty yards, climbing trees (I always had to be the first one to the top), drinking coffee (in Israel it’s not growth stunting), and pigging out on humus and pita at midnight. The kind of bonding stuff one does before cell phones got in the way.
2) Lots of meals before and after the wedding, which includes hugging, hair touching and sniffing, shoulder squeezing, and eating.
My cousin got married on a Thursday night. To which some people remarked, “Who gets married on a Thursday?”
Since it was before the holiday weekend, this didn’t seem unusual to me – it seemed smart. But I realized the rationale behind it was that my cousin and his fiancé are observant Jews. So Friday and Saturday are out. And Sunday is for rest (or in my case, occasionally Church).
The wedding was in a word – magical. Transcendent. There is a palpable energy when two souls who are meant-to-be come together, and you can feel it in the air like a blanket of electricity. The Jewish rituals and customs, which I haven’t witnessed or participated in in years, were elevated and substantiated as my cousin stood under the chuppah with his eyes closed in reverence, absorbing the magnitude of the moment. My older sister’s husband who is a Rabbi had the honor of marrying them.
The women sat on one side, and the men – including my husband who sat beside my father and my uncle and brother in law – on the other. As I strained to watch the ceremony (and document it…I’m the neurotic self appointed videographer of every event), I leaned across my two sisters laps, tears in all of our eyes, and I could feel an otherness watching us from above (or maybe it was my dad sneaking pics of his three girls from the other side).
The dancing – the crazy sweaty manic dancing – came after. Chairs were thrust in the air, and sometimes people too. There was lots of horah-ing. I watched my husband, yarmulka on his head as he swirled around with his arms around my cousins, his face beaming (this was before he spontaneously dove to the floor in his suit and did “the worm,” or in his case “the python”). When he and I got married almost two years ago (say what?), the Israeli fleet was there too, but this time we were able to bond and mesh with them.
That Saturday, my husband and I hosted the entire chamoolah (Yiddish for ‘glob of love’) in our new home. The door kept opening to reveal more cousins, and their children, and aunts and uncles. I managed to prepare food (by prepare I mean make tuna from a can and bagels and lox my mother brought) that was enough for 28 people. My relatives spread out on the floor, on the various couches, and my uncles and their wives were clustered in corners in deep conversation. One of my uncles fell into a peaceful sleep on the chaise lounge, his wife draped over him. They stayed until 4:30 (an Israeli style “Sabbath lunch”), and then my husband and I went with another cousin and his girlfriend for a walk to Riverside Park, where we had cocktails overlooking the Hudson River. Afterwards, we let our dog off her leash on a grassy hill, to see what her old bones could do, and she did not disappoint; she zoomed and bopped around like a puppy.
And then on Labor Day, I met my sister and her daughter who just turned 13 – and her four friends in matching white jeans, leather Vans, and braces – for a birthday lunch in Soho. In the evening, the newlyweds came over for a toast, my cousin holding a ram’s horn (shofar) that riveted my dog, until my husband blew it effortlessly as if he had been a Rabbi in another life (or a Viking).
It occurred to me that I hadn’t written a word of my new project all weekend as I had planned. And I didn’t think twice about it (okay, maybe I did a little).
But I realized, to have the opportunity to host my beloved chamoolah – to have this rare opportunity to be with my family, many of who I haven’t seen in over two years, and to celebrate life and love, is more meaningful than writing anything.
Except maybe in a blog post.