And no, I’m not talking about the weddings of friends’ children that I attend. I’m talking about my own weddings, the weddings of my own children.
My oldest son, The Lad, decided last month to follow the footsteps of his two younger brothers and get himself engaged. Though the date of the wedding has yet to be determined, the expectation is for pre-Passover nuptials. This means that we will have married off two sons in the span of five months and three in just over two years.
And that, my friends, is a lot of ku-lu-lu-lu-lus.
It’s also a lot of singing. A lot of dancing. A lot of planning. A lot of eating. A lot of speechifying. A lot of haggling with the wedding halls. A lot of money. A lot of joy.
Bring it on! This should always be the worst of our dilemmas.
The key through it all is keeping it fresh. Making The Lad feel as special about his wedding day as we made Skippy and The Youngest feel about theirs.
That is also the key in parenting, and – I imagine – in grandparenting.
SKIPPY AND the lovely Mrs. Skippy, bless their hearts, wasted no time in providing The Wife and me with our first grandson.
Lovely addition to the family, this little tyke. Wonderful boy. He’s smart, alert, happy, smiley, well behaved, helpful to playmates in daycare, already learning mishnayot, good to the elderly and eating his greens. He also sucks in everyone’s attention like a vacuum.
Get this boy in a room full of Keinons, and it’s all about him. I mean everything is about him. Everybody wants to hold him, look at him, coo at him, tickle him, sing to him, throw him in the air, make nice to him, be nice to him, get him to smile.
That kid is getting one warped view of the universe.
But why not, he’s only one. The trick – and perhaps the impossibility – is to ensure that his siblings and his future first cousins get that same special feeling.
THAT’S ALSO the key when marrying off one son after the other in rapid-fire succession.
“Are you excited?” one of my kids asked after The Lad popped the question.
“Of course I’m excited,” I responded. “I’m thrilled. I’m pleased as punch. I’m tickled to death. What kind of stupid question is that?”
“Well, we just had a wedding two months ago, not everyone is going to be able to come from America this time. How can you keep up the same level of excitement?”
Which, on second thought, is not as stupid a question as it is a philosophical one.
How to retain wonder at the Grand Canyon, after you’ve seen it before? How to be thrilled by seeing your fourth child take his first step, when your first child is already skipping up the stairs two at a time? And how to get inspired by a prayer that you’ve recited a million times before?
True, there is a special, first-time thrill of experiencing what you have never experienced before. But there is also a thrill of experiencing what you have experienced before, being prepared for it, and – as a result of that preparation – actually being able to enjoy it more.
After you’ve been to the Grand Canyon once, you know next time which rim to visit to get away from the crowds and get a better view –something that can enhance your enjoyment. When your fourth kid takes his first step, you know he’s going to fall and bang his head – but you’re more relaxed, because you know what to do when it happens.
And as far as being inspired by prayers recited over and over, well, that one is still a work in progress for me.
YES, THIS will be our third wedding in quick order. The novelty might have worn off, but not the joy at the occasion. The joy remains. All that has changed is that we’ve done it before. We’re not any less excited, just better prepared.
First of all, that get-to-know-you meeting with the future in-laws, which sent the stomach all a flutter the first time we ever did it, is now small potatoes. I know what to ask, and what not to ask. I know what to expect, and what not to expect. No big deal, no reason to sweat.
And I’m prepared for the ceremony. Israeli weddings, unlike American ones, are rather informal affairs – both for the guests, and for the participants.
There are no rehearsal dinners, no practice walks down the aisle, no complicated choreography to remember. You show up, follow the rabbi’s lead, and pretty much go with the flow.
That, at least, is what happened at the first wedding. We let the rabbi dictate. By the second wedding, we knew more what we wanted, and took a little more control. By this one – who knows – maybe we’ll actually be calling the shots.
And I – a quintessential Ashkenazi – am also very prepared now for my sons’ non-Ashkenazi in-laws. Of the six parents of my three sons’ fiancée and wives, three are of Moroccan, two of Algerian, and only one of German – Ashkenazi – descent.
When I first came to this country as a student in 1979, the social issue threatening to tear this country apart was not the haredi-secular rift – as many fear it is today – but rather the Ashkenazi-Sephardi one.
Some 40 years later, that rift has moved to the background, largely because of “mixed marriages” like those of my sons. My boys are doing more to bridge a once-gaping societal fissure than a well-intentioned and handsomely endowed NGO.
Engagement after wedding after wedding, I’m now accustomed to the Mizrachi customs: to the style, to the tone and the tenor. I don’t feel an outsider. I know what food to reach for, and what to stay away from. It all feels natural and comfortable. I feel at home... and there is definitely excitement in that.