It was the hottest September in memory and the synagogue had no air conditioning. But hey, it was my wedding day.
As I stood under the huppah with my fiancé, and 200 sweltering guests looked on, I wasn’t feeling the heat and I wasn’t feeling nervous – yet. Following the rabbi’s prompts, we recited our vows in Hebrew. Then came the ritual drinking of the wine and the groom’s traditional breaking of the glass, and we were married.
After dinner, some of the older men asked us to remain at the table until they finished reciting the Sheva Brachot, the seven blessings that are traditionally said at Jewish weddings. Blessings complete, we leaned across to shake hands … and my veil got caught on the candles that decorated the table. I didn’t even notice until my new husband exclaimed, “You’re on fire!”
“Help!” I squeaked.
Finally, it occurred to someone to grab my veil and put the fire out. For the rest of the evening, I found myself explaining to everyone who asked – and everyone did – why I wasn’t wearing my veil. “It burnt,” was all I could really say.
After that, things went quite smoothly, considering the heat. When we left to start our honeymoon, the ushers sang us out with Goodnight Irene. My aunt went back to the house with me to help me change. And that’s when it hit me: I was married!
Oh my God, what do I do now?
“I’m not going. I’ve changed my mind,” I told my aunt. She flinched, but kept her cool. It took a while, but she managed to talk me down, saying calmly that I knew what I was getting into and this wasn’t the time to back out. It worked – crisis averted.
Things come in threes, don’t they? Sweltering heat with no air conditioning, a veil that burnt up and my panic attack. What else could happen?
The honeymoon was still to come. The place? New York City – home of the New York Yankees, the premier team in all of baseball. Tops on my new husband’s to-do list was to see the Yankees play at Yankee Stadium. Me, I can enjoy the occasional baseball game, and I wanted to please him, so there we were.
In those days, beer was not available in sports stadiums in Toronto, but Americans were more sophisticated. We were sitting next to an obviously rabid fan with a beer can in his hands. When the Yankees hit a home run, he stood up and flung his hands in the air. As he cheered, I got a can full of beer in my lap. I was soaked. There was nothing I could do but sit through the game, smelling like a brewery.
I wouldn’t go on the bus or subway, so we took a cab back to our hotel. My next problem was figuring out how to get my skirt cleaned. The clerk at the hotel desk said the cleaners they used were closed for religious holidays, so we wandered the streets looking for an open dry cleaning shop.
The one we found would have my clothes ready well before we were due to fly home. But we forgot to landmark the shop. Nor did we take a business card. After exploring every street within a 10-block radius of our hotel, we found the shop and retrieved our belongings.
Sixty-five years have passed since then. Of course, there were rough spots: fierce arguments, tears and recriminations, in-law problems. There was tragedy: a child who died at birth. Still, we hung in, and we survived. We learned to live together and be a support to each other. Now, three children and seven grandchildren later, we’ve reached our smooth ending.