Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What, Me Worry?

I’m declaring today National Free From Worry Day (NFFWD). Thanks to me, you can go about your business without thinking of the hundreds of things that nag. Hang on a sec; I hear sirens. Oh wait, just remembered my daughters live out of town, so there’s no worry the ambulances or fire trucks are headed their way.

Now, where was I? Seems my memory is getting a bit foggy as I age. Like an overstretched rubber band, it pulls far out, but doesn’t snap back as it used to. But today is NFFWD, so no more worries about my brain.

Before that siren interrupted me…Wait, perhaps I should go to the window to make sure it’s not a fire truck screaming down our street. All is okay. Let’s see, I was talking about my daughters, and that reminds me of the time when they did live home and were old enough to drive and be out late. While hubby snored peacefully at my side, I, on the other hand, would lie awake with my ears perked like an on-edge animal. Not until I heard a key in the lock, did my ears and racing heart rate shrink.

Now that they are adults, with families of their own, my worry level on their behalf has significantly decreased. Except of course when it snows in Boston (Faith),

have tremors in L.A. (Jill), or any of my grandchildren spike a fever above normal.

Lest you think I’m obsessive only about my offspring, there are other things I worry about. The mail looms large. I’m convinced our USPS carrier lugs an overdue bill in her sack. The letter will be all caps and warns our electricity, cable, gas, or phone service will be cut unless the missing funds are supplied immediately. Of course, these bills are in error, but that doesn’t stop the sweat simmering on my brow, and that racing heart I described earlier.

E-mail used to induce shakes similar to those spurred by snail mail. I’d worry, is this message legit or phishing? But since I signed on with WeGotYourBack.com, a site based in Nigeria that guarantees I will never be the victim of a scam, I can rest easy. You might want to enroll as well. All you have to do is provide your social security number, your mother’s maiden name, your date of birth, and you’re in.

I have one more worry you might think silly, but bear with me. (I’ve awarding you this worry-free day, so the least you could do is hang on a bit.) I’m afraid my iPhone will die. You see, in the early days of the device, it took many trips to the Apple store and phone calls to a tech to unfreeze it. All of the phone’s info is stored on my Mac, so there's really no need to worry. But still…

Someone wise once said, “99% of the things we worry about never happen, so relax." Sounds sensible, right? But what if this maven wasn’t wise after all, just delusional or condescending?

That worries me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hunting Down and Suiting Up

When most people embark on a new exercise routine, they look forward to fitting into smaller size clothing, having more energy, and winning kudos from friends. For me, it’s in the hunting down and suiting up.

Recently, after joining a fitness center and enrolling in yoga and Pilates classes, as well as weight lifting and aerobics sessions, I decided research into each activity was the first order of business. Books had to be bought, and CDs, DVDS, and web sites reviewed. While that investigation delayed my actual performing of the exercises, I deemed the preparation essential.

After my initial fieldwork, my appetite for additional knowledge was stoked. Now, I wanted to know more about the derivation of each exercise. Oh, you may think I didn’t need to learn yoga’s origins in India, or read the biography of Joseph Pilates who invented his physical fitness system in early 20th century Germany. But curiosity and enlightenment should never be squelched. Should they?

Maybe the background on Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, former Air Force Colonel from Oklahoma who authored the 1968 book “Aerobics,” which emphasized a point system for improving the cardiovascular system, was too much information.

And on second thought, the story of Eugen Sandow from Prussia, who first promoted bodybuilding, was overkill. However, bibliography did heighten excitement and anticipation.

Thus armed, it was time to select new wardrobes for my four workouts. Naturally, I couldn’t be expected to wear stretched and out-of-fashion shorts and tank tops squished in a corner of my dresser drawer. And my running shoes – a misnomer I admit –were several years old and painfully devoid of support. Some $140 later, I felt quite the jock trotting the shop floors of Fleet Street.

As for yoga, entire industries now focus on clothing for poses that were once performed in simple muslin. Obviously, I had to purchase pants and tops that would allow freedom of movement, yet hug the body. There was also a cunning invention called the “shelf bra” --tank top and bra in one garment, but alas, I could barely pull that shelf over my head, let alone cover the products they were intended to support.

While I was aware my fitness center possessed yoga mats, blocks, and straps, I thought it wise to purchase my own equipment. True, big box stores carry these items, but since I would also be reaping Eastern wisdom and a certain amount of soul stuff, it just didn’t seem right to go cheap. How can one put a price on serenity? (Actually, I could: a tad over $200.)

Lest you think that the inventory of instructions and clothing from previous exercises; i.e. tennis, swimming, spinning, and kickboxing, that are gathering dust on closet shelves (and smirks from family and friends) would dissuade me from my current fitness pursuit, you’re mistaken.

Soon enough, when I feel properly informed and suited up to Downward Dog, tighten my core, pep my step, or hoist a barbell, I’ll begin.

Until then, please keep your mouth shut and avoid rolling your eyes.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Bad

This isn’t easy to admit, but there are several activities I currently engage in where I am, well, bad. Not fair, mediocre, or C+; just bad. And yet, I soldier on.

One would think if a student sat in class after class of Spanish language, and was still unable to dialogue in a tense other than first, she'd throw up her hands, and declare, Adios. Pero, no. This mujer continues to listen to Coffee Break Spanish podcasts on her iPhone, click on the Spanish Anywhere app in her downtime, and embarrass her only children by attempting conversations with any Latina(o) who crosses their path.

For this inability to speak and understand the Spanish language, I blame my parents. Yiddish! Such was the language of the ghetto I grew up in in the 1940s. Ver can that take me, I ask you? On top of that, the Division Street I knew back then is now Paseo Boricua, where Spanish is the native tongue. I would've been so ready if Min and Irv had a bissel foresight.

While we’re blaming the parents (oh, come on, hop aboard), let’s point fingers at them for my dismal renditions on the piano. Over the years, I’ve tortured a variety of teachers. Some have encouraged me to keep count with a metronome. Others suggested scales. And some benevolent souls have allowed me to skip Beethoven and go straight to Rogers and Hart. And yet, close your ears.

Would it have been so terrible to place a piano in our little flat above the store? Not a grand, of course, but a spinet. Instead of Mom’s Singer Sewing Machine in a corner of the kitchen, we could’ve had a sweet little Wurlitzer. So, we’d be a little tight. And Mom would’ve had to hem my skirts by hand. But at least today I’d be popular at parties. “Elaine, come play us a tune,” I’d hear. Instead of, “No, sweetheart,” as the host clamps the keyboard’s lid on my stunted fingers.

Don’t get me started on swimming. My father, built like a wrestler, boasted he swam laps at the Division Street YMCA, “the very same one that Johnny Weissmuller -- you know, Tarzan -- swam at.” If that’s the case, why couldn’t Dad have taught his only daughter how to freestyle? Why did she have to feign her monthly period throughout high school to avoid the natatorium?

Oh, I’ve tried. Don’t think I haven’t tried. Just ask Pat or C.K. at the YMCA, or former swim team captains who teach at health clubs. They’ll remember me, no doubt. “Oh yes, that little lady who can’t swim without fins. The one who won’t go in the deep end?”

But, after much prodding and encouraging from C.K., I did jump into 8’ (Or was it 12’? It doesn’t matter. When you’re sub-five-feet, anything over that is the deep end.) My goal was to rise to the surface --please God-- then tread water. After much flapping of arms, I did rise, but immediately flopped to a back float and peddled to the shallow end.

I’ll share one last Bad. Why in the world did I – who has a thin, wavery voice -- sign up for Vocal classes at Old Town School of Folk Music, I’ll never know. Wait, I do know. While laboring through Rogers and Hart on the piano, I decided it would be fun to sing along. Fancying myself a lounge singer, I envisioned Elaine at the piano, notes of “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” in my singular voice accompanying herself.

Can we once again turn to Min and Irv, keepers of my childhood? Did we even have a record player? We were poor, remember? Lived in those three cramped rooms above our failing grocery store. A radio, yes; but a victrola? Okay, let’s say we did have one. Do you know what would likely be spinning? Famous Jewish cantors. Try and sing along with those guys.

Perhaps I should lay off blaming my folks before my own children pick up the habit and decide Mother is the cause of any of their failings. But, Jill speaks Spanish, Faith sings and plays the piano, both swim. What could they possibly fault me for?

Not to worry; they'll come up with something.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Of Summers Past

Pack up! Come with us on trips to Fire Island, Hemingway Country, and Route 66. Along with my essay, "Am I Blah Blah?", guest bloggers Frances O'Cherony Archer and Elizabeth Liwazer share their adventures in "Looking for Hemingway," and "An Easy Ride."

Am I Blah Blah?
by Elaine Soloway

“Am I female?” I asked my ex-husband.

“Yes,” he said.

I turned to my current husband. “Am I a movie star?”


I took a moment to ponder their responses. I was seated on a couch in the Fire Island beach house my daughter Jill rented in August of 2007. Along with her dad (my ex), my second husband, and me, Jill invited a dozen other relatives to share her vacation time. Since we all got along, there was no fear of unpleasantries interrupting the holiday.

Like everyone else, I wore a melon-colored post-it note, with a name written on it, stuck to my forehead. We were playing the parlor game, “Am I Blah-blah?” and had to guess the identity of the person on our post-its.

Stalling for time before my next question, I studied the view from the floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out onto the beach. Rain had been falling steadily since our arrival and the shore was deserted save for a few people hunting for seashells and driftwood. The water rose in high waves, raced across the sand, then grabbed scoops as it slithered back into the ocean.

I was ready for another stab. “Am I a politician?” I asked Jill.

“Yes,” she said.

“Hillary Clinton?” My daughter nodded and I leapt from my seat. I ripped the post-it from my forehead and shouted, “Yes!” Then I sat down, crossed my arms and tried to focus on the next player.

But my mind was as busy as the sea. Who had suggested Hillary Clinton? Was it one of my husbands? The one who, after 30 years of marriage, left me for another woman? Or the one who relinquished longtime bachelorhood and was adjusting to the constraints of wedlock? Did either of them see a trait Mrs. Clinton and I shared?

Instead of returning to the game, I replayed a scene in my head that might provide clues. The previous morning, my husbands and I were seated at the local diner when the conversation somehow veered to my shortcomings. “She’s so controlling,” one said. “Absolutely,” agreed his mate.

“Controlling?” I shouted. “Where would you be without my organizing, my bookkeeping, my taking care of things?” I hurled the question at both of them. They looked startled, for outbursts like this one were rare.

I started to cry. Number two put a hand on my shoulder. Number one attempted, "we didn't mean to…." I dabbed at my eyes with a table napkin. "We appreciate you," they agreed. "Sorry we upset you."

Not wanting to spoil the vacation, and admitting to myself I could be considered, well, controlling, I forgave them both and started eating.

“Am I an athlete?” Husband number one’s question dragged me back to the game.

“No,” another player answered.

The post-it on my ex’s forehead read Luciano Pavarotti. But if I had had the chance to edit the name, I'd pencil in, Benedict Arnold. And for husband number two? Brutus? Et tu?

Looking for Hemingway
By Frances O’Cherony Archer

In the summer of ’76 I sublet an apartment in Evanston, turned 20 and fell in love. When we weren’t at our summer jobs, John and I read books, listened to music, swam in the lake after dark, and rode long distances on our ten-speed bikes. Radio stations constantly played “If You Leave Me Now” and by the end of July we dreaded hearing the song: in the fall John was going away to grad school. To distract ourselves from the impending separation, we decided to take a road trip to Horton Bay, Michigan, the town where Ernest Hemingway spent childhood summers and the setting for some of his Nick Adams stories. We were English majors and had many favorite books, but we idolized Hemingway because he was, like us, from Chicago and he wrote about the outdoors and because we were still hoping for lives as adventurous as his.

Although it was an ambitious journey, a seven-hour drive from Chicago, our preparations didn’t go beyond studying my high school copy of "In Our Time" as though it were a road map. We borrowed my father’s 1971 banana yellow Chevy Malibu convertible, a muscle car that screamed summer adventure but was, we thought, a little loud for a literary expedition.

On Highway 31, opposite the turnoff for Horton Bay, there was a dirt road. We took it, thinking we might find traces of an abandoned lumber mill, Indian camp, or other landmarks from Hemingway’s stories. The road was narrow and bumpy and overgrown with weeds and shrubs. As the waters of Little Traverse Bay shimmered into view, we heard an explosion and felt the car sink. I had driven over a half-buried cement boat launch and blown a rear tire.

We walked for about an hour under a cloudless sky toward Petoskey until we found a gas station. The attendant laughed at our story, then said the earliest he could tow the car was the following morning and it would cost fifty dollars. With leftover funds we bought food and supplies: cans of franks and beans, chips, a quart of beer, water, a box of Pop Tarts, bug spray and a flashlight.

In the late afternoon we walked along a railroad track looking for the swampy spot where Nick Adams lands after getting thrown off the train in “The Battler.” Towns mentioned in the story—Walton Junction, Kalkaska, Mancelona—were miles away but we thought we’d find something. Before dark we gathered branches and twigs and built a campfire on the rocky shore, a fire big enough to last until daylight. We stayed up all night, half hoping and half afraid a hobo with a scarred face, like Ad Francis in Hemingway’s story, would emerge from the woods.

After the car was repaired, we drove back to the road we should have taken, the one leading to Horton Bay. The only traces of Hemingway we found were a few old photographs mounted on the walls of the Horton Bay General Store. We weren’t disappointed, though. Marooned overnight in the wrong place, we had glimpsed the scrubby, hard-luck landscape of the Nick Adams stories.

An Easy Ride
By Elizabeth Liwazer

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
Mark Twain

“Remember the Route 66 trip I told you about?” Cindy asked.

“Sure,” I nodded, sipping my hot tea during our monthly dinners together. It was January and the only thing that warmed me on another freezing evening.

“My sister isn’t coming after all…do you want to go?” she asked.

Ever since I saw Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda straddle their bikes in "Easy Rider," I’ve wanted to head west from the Midwest on the iconic American open road. Now, the summer before 9/11, I had my chance. I could dump the job I hated and take off in the Honda. But, instead of a Honda motorcycle, we loaded her four-door Honda Civic with a refrigerator and Bud, a smiling bobble-headed porcelain doll we won at a friend’s bowling party.

In preparation, we highlighted our maps and atlas and toasted each other Thelma and Louise-style while watching that movie, and reread our high school copies of "The Grapes of Wrath" because John Steinbeck’s Joad family sets out for California on Route 66. We planned our course, certain to get our kicks in every place the song mentioned. From downtown Chicago, we would drive from Springfield, Illinois, through Joplin, Missouri across the state line to Oklahoma City, where we would remember a different set of victims from a local radical at the Federal Building.

Ours was a carefree attitude traveling cross-country, in the last innocent days before we understood that we, too, are vulnerable to attacks by international forces. "The Bad Girl’s Guide" to the Open Road, was invaluable to our 2,077 mile road-tripping adventure to the Pacific Ocean and we read it from cover to cover, taking note of wanderlust wisdom like other helpful uses for condoms such as snakebite tourniquet or ponytail holder and how to get out of speeding tickets. Our most difficult decisions were which diner to have lunch or what motel might be cleaner on the nights we weren’t staying in our friends’ guest rooms.

From Amarillo, Texas, to Albuquerque, New Mexico, we headed for Winslow, Arizona, taking little Bud’s picture at every tourist attraction, laughing harder and harder as we waited for Asian and European travelers to move aside so we could strategically place him beside the sites. At the Grand Canyon, we stood in awe, holding Bud, who posed happily for pictures to fill our albums. We followed step after breathtaking step on the path taken by millions of others toward the stunning sunset, never once mentioning that we missed the office.

Driving up Highway One, where Bud, with his painted-on grin, was as excited as we were to have his picture taken at the Brady Bunch house, we took the northern route back home. Our high spirits were beginning to wilt at the prospect of returning to real life until we hit South Dakota and a flock of Hondas and Harley Davidsons cluttered the expressway. Our paths intersected with those headed for Sturgis, the Mecca for motorcycle enthusiasts and the people who sleep with them.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Cindy asked. She shook Bud until his bobble head was nodding at such a frenzied pace that it threatened to catapult through the windshield.

Had our Route 66 trip been planned after 9/11, our whole experience would have been very different. Instead, we gave each other the thumbs up Thelma and Louise-style, and joined our Honda with all the others.

(The people in the photos are: Jill, Elaine, and Faith Soloway in the first story; and Elizabeth and Cindy in the last story.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

There's An App For That

Like all dutiful daughters, I called Dad on Father’s Day. Thanks to the iPhone's 3.0 update that includes the application, Celestial Calls, I was able to reach him with little effort.

He wasn’t surprised at my call because ever since he died in 1958, he’s kept his eyes on me. I know this because there are times I feel his presence. Mostly, I’m happy he’s lurking, especially if I’m being honored, thanked, or otherwise celebrated. If I'm very quiet, I can just about make out, “Way to go, Princess.

Other times, when I’m engaged in activities that he may have frowned upon when alive; i.e. lying, cheating, or taking a Gentile for a second husband, I pray (a longtime earth-to-heaven communication technique) that Dad discretely looks the other way.

On my Father's Day call, Dad picked up after a few rings and said, “So nice to hear from you, Princess.”

“Do you have an iPhone, too?” I asked, imagining he must have a similar device for our unusual chat to occur.

“No, just a regular rotary phone,” Dad said. “Nothing fancy.”

“So where did I catch you?” I asked. (When Apple brings video chat to the iPhone, these types of questions will be irrelevant.)

“The Pool Room. Where else? You remember the guys from Division Street? They’re all up here now.”

In the background, I could hear the clinking of billiard balls, the TV with Jack Brickhouse announcing the Cubs game, and shouts of goniff from male voices I assumed were at card tables.

“Sure I remember the Pool Room. Are you all still smoking?” I asked. I thought about those clouds that greeted me whenever I went to fetch Dad home for supper.

“This is Heaven,” Dad said. “We get to do what we want. And we don’t have to worry about second-hand smoke killing anyone. We’re already dead!” He laughed at his inside joke.

I heard chomping. "Are you eating, Dad?" Scorn rising in my voice.

"Corned beef on rye, coleslaw,...”

"But Dad," I said, "your diabetes, your…

He interrupted with another laugh, "Princess, enough already."

"Oh yeah, Heaven," I said. “Listen, I’ve been trying to think of a Father’s Day gift, but you understand postage would be prohibitive.”

“Princess, you don’t need to buy me anything. Your book about me was enough.”

“Dad, to be honest, it wasn’t only about you. It was about all of our lives on Division Street – you, me, Mom, Ronnie.”

“I know, I know, everybody loved it.”

“You all read it?” I asked.

“I did a book signing,” Dad said. I was certain he was rolling his eyes at my naivetĂ©. “Remember Stuart Brent Books in Chicago?” he continued. “When it left Michigan Avenue, it opened up here. We resurrect only independent booksellers. I was quite a hit.”

“Speaking about Mom, do you ever see her?” Although my parents were still married at the time of Dad’s demise, I asked because of their frequent earthly arguments. “We run into each other now and then, but she prefers hanging out with her family and friends; and, well you know where I am.”

“Dad, tell me about your beloved sports. I can hear the Cubs game, but what about boxing, wrestling. Do you still get to enjoy those matches?”

“Are you kidding?” Dad asked. “We got a game on now; and we got Babe Ruth, Jake LaMotta, Gorgeous George. There’s a different sport every night. I can hardly keep up. Remember, Princess, this is Heaven.”

“Say, Dad, I have this feeling that you’ve been keeping an eye on my daughters, even though you never got to meet them when you were alive. Aren’t they something?”

“They take after me,” Dad said, pride likely puffing his girth further. “Their zest for life, their charm, friendliness, those big brown eyes. The talent part, I can’t take credit for. Maybe their father and you.”

I laughed. Even without video, I recalled his face clearly. He was right; there are similarities.

"And Ron, how about him publishing his own book, 'Making Happy’? What do you think about that, Dad?"

"Boy, did I get a laugh out of your brother's book! We got the galleys. It'll be a big hit here, too."

“Listen Dad, I think my battery is wearing out, so I’m going to have to say goodbye. But your birthday is coming up, so I’ll try and reach you then.”

“Sounds beautiful, Princess,” he said. "But don't worry about making calls. I'm in touch with you seven days a week."

"We say 24/7 here."

"Twenty-four seven? That one I didn't hear. I'll be honest; it's a little hard keeping up. Thank goodness for the Chicago Daily News and the other papers. Of course, we've got the top reporters working, too. Sports, politics, you name it. It takes a little longer than your computers, but quality, Princess, quality. We got it here."

"Well Dad, I'm glad you're doing okay. Give my love to everyone. When you see Mom, tell her I can call her now, too."

"She'll be happy to hear that."

My father and I said our goodbyes. I clicked off the iPhone and plugged it into its charger. Just as I thought, the battery was nearly empty. But there was enough juice for a text message coming in. "So, when am I going to hear from you?"

It was from my mother.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

June Bride

As the notes of "Here Comes The Bride" sounded, 75 guests interrupted their chatter to swivel in the seats of their white folding chairs. All eyes focused on the closed double doors behind them. Any moment, here in the Country Squire Room of the North Shore Hotel, on the 19th day of June in the year 1960, I was about to wed my groom.

In my hiding place, I attempted a relaxing deep breath, as recommended by Modern Bride magazine. But my dress’s tight bodice prevented even a subtle sigh. How I hated this dress! Why had I let my mother talk me into this castoff?

“Christine wore it for the ceremony only,” my mother had said, describing her co-worker’s claim. “She swore she changed to a party dress right after her vows, and hung it in its Field’s garment bag." It was three months before the wedding. Mother and I were in the bedroom of our garden apartment; the door was closed so we could see our reflection in the full-length mirror nailed to its back. My mother’s hands circled my waist, pasting the dress to me as if I were her cutout paper doll.

“Okay, I’ll try it on,” I said, stripping to my underwear and wriggling into the dress. “Zip me.” I held my breath, in case the metal’s teeth hungered for flesh.

“Ugh,” I said at my image

“You’re crazy. Try on the veil.”

The veil did seem to lift a viewer’s eyes away from the unfortunate boat neckline (tugboat was more like it), but the hemline was wrong, too. Okay, full-length would’ve been over the top for an afternoon wedding, and mini – which would’ve displayed my legs, my best feature at age 22 – would’ve been tacky. But this dress cut me off mid-calf, a particularly ugly spot.

Mother prevailed. So here I was, waiting behind the paneled wooden doors, on the day of my budget wedding, in the cheap dress. I refused to let the dress or the modest venue bring me down. I was overjoyed to be standing where I was, fortunate to be rescued from an old maid future, and about to marry a man I truly loved.

I felt a mixture of excitement and butterflies as I began my march, walking slowly to match the music, sinking my white dyed-pumps into the runner with each pointy-toed step. All was a blur in my line of sight. To assure glamour photographs, both this bride and her groom ditched our spectacles. Somehow, he made it safely down the aisle. When his parents each grabbed an elbow of his white tuxedo jacket for the final three feet, they looked like elderly, over-dressed scouts shepherding a blind man across the street.

The bridesmaids and their escorts were in place, too. As I neared the altar, I could see my mother coming into focus a few feet from the chuppah. Her oldest brother, Carl, had escorted her down the aisle and the two of them looked as solemn as sentries.

The wedding guests likely pinned my mother's expression to my dad's death two years earlier, as well as the loss of her roommate daughter. But I knew there was something else that barred her usual lovely smile: She hated my about-to-be husband.

As I neared her on the cloth-covered path, I flashed to a scene that had taken place in our apartment six months earlier. "Aren't you happy I'm finally engaged?" I asked. I spread my left hand and lifted the quarter-carat diamond up towards her face. "You've nagged me about a ring my entire senior year. 'Everybody's engaged,' you said. 'When are you going to find someone?' you said. Isn't that what you wanted?"

"I didn't mean you should steal someone else's fiancé. You couldn't find someone else?"

"I didn't steal him. They were never engaged. Don't you remember, he left her."

When the boy I was about to marry first confessed he had fallen out of love with one of my best friends and into love with me, I had been surprised, but also delighted. I had long thought I was a better match for him, but of course, never voiced this.

“You’re sure about this?” I had asked him. “Yes, yes,” he said. “Please say you’ll go out with me.

"Not until you break up with her, and we let a few weeks pass," I made him promise. Then, we dated secretly, but the word got out. Girlfriends took sides. Most of them damned me for my betrayal. Only one friend, Ruth, stood by me.

Mother was on the side of my enemies. “How will I ever face her family again?” she said. “How could you do this to me?

"I want you to be happy for me," I said. "I want you to love your future son-in-law."

"Okay, I'm happy for you.”

After my mother and uncle delivered me to my designated spot under the chuppah, I finally relaxed and took in the breath I had attempted at the start of the ceremony. My slow, blurry march, tense as a tightrope walker, had ended, and now I stood alongside my tall, handsome groom.

After the vows, my new husband lifted his rented black dress shoe and drove it down onto the napkin that covered the ritual wine glass. As his foot caused the glass to shatter, cries of Mahzel Tov rang out. With my veil above my head, and my vision clearer, my eyes circled the bridal party. The faces of the small group of relatives, plus my friend Ruth, lit up with smiles.

All but Mother's, whose expression hadn't changed since her march down the aisle. Only her red-tipped manicured hands, which were twisting a soaked ball of Kleenex, showed any movement.