By Hannah Reich Berman
Nothing beats the joy of being a grandparent. Just when one thinks it couldn’t possibly get any better, a grandchild gets married, and it does! Last week, the first of my grandchildren got married. We were all thrilled, but nobody in the family had it easier than I did. I remember when Hubby and I were making weddings for our children. As I recall, along with the joy came a lot of work and some frustrating moments thrown in for good measure. That’s the way it is for the parents. It’s not like that for grandparents!
The best way to describe my experience leading up to the day of this wedding would be to say that it was a non-experience! In short, it was a mechayah! All I knew was that my beloved grandson was marrying a girl as bright, beautiful, and kind of heart as he. That is all that matters. Nevertheless, it felt odd for a grandmother as involved as I have always been in the lives of my grandchildren to have no involvement in the planning of the wedding.
I never met with the caterer and I didn’t have to make a single decision about the menu, but I knew the food would be great. I had no idea who the florist was, but I was certain that the centerpieces and the chuppah flowers would be beautiful. I wasn’t involved in the selection of the band, yet I was confident that the music would be terrific. And the bonus was that I didn’t have to go from one simcha to another to listen to different bands before choosing one. Maybe the parents did that, maybe not. I don’t really know.
All I know is that I did nothing. I had no planning sessions with the new in-laws and didn’t have to discuss wedding expenses. Apparently the only thing expected of me was that, when I met my grandson’s new family, I should smile. Talk about having it easy!
In our circles, we don’t usually refer to the other set of parents as the new in-laws. When we have a wedding, we acquire an entirely new vocabulary. Suddenly, even the most Americanized among us is speaking Yiddish! The mothers of the newlyweds are the macheteinistas, the dads are the machuttins, and as couples we refer to them as machetanim. There is more. A macheteinista is also known as a shviger and a machuttin may be referred to as a shver. The only one who didn’t get a name change is me. I am still called Savta.
And considering my gradually deteriorating memory, that’s a good thing! If I were to suddenly be called by another name, I might get confused and not know they were referring to me. But, happily, there are no new titles for grandparents. Bubbys, Zaidys, Omahs, Opahs, Grandmas, and Grandpas, we all remain as we were. To the ongoing sadness of my family, my husband, Arnie, is no longer here. But he will forever be referred to as Saba, even by the new bride, who never had the pleasure of meeting him. Hubby would have loved her!
Given the fact that my only responsibility was to myself, I came to the wedding as a guest—a loving and caring guest, to be sure, but a guest nonetheless. Everything had been taken care of without any help from me, while my daughter, in addition to taking care of wedding details, had the job of buying clothes for herself and her entire family for the aufruf, the wedding day itself, and the week of sheva berachot. How she did it all, I have no idea. But she did it beautifully. And she wasn’t the only one. Undoubtedly her beautiful counterpart, her macheteinesta, did the same on her end.
My sole assignment was to get myself to look as good as possible. At my age, that’s a considerable challenge. I had to buy a dress and a pair of shoes to complement it. My dress was long, so the shoes shouldn’t have mattered. But I knew that, in the event that the hem hiked up an inch during the dancing, the shoes had to be right. I would bet everything I own that there was not a single person at that wedding who gave a hoot about what my shoes looked like. Nevertheless, I searched until I found the perfect pair. And that was the sum total of my efforts for the wedding.
Even my makeup wasn’t my responsibility. Instead, I sat back, closed my eyes, and let a cosmetician do the work. A beautician had been hired to style the hair of all the women in the bridal party, but I refused the offer. Every morning of my life, I create my own spiky hairdo without help from anyone, and I intended to keep it that way. If I changed it, I wouldn’t look like me. And for better or worse, I wanted to be me!
As the wedding day drew closer, I learned that I did have one small assignment. I was to help with seating the guests. So, three days before the event, my daughter and I sat down and did it together. It was a challenging task because, like all hosts, she wanted her guests to be happy at their respective tables. We worked at it for several hours, and when we finished I looked at my daughter and said, “The next time you make a wedding, maybe we could just toss the cards up in the air and wherever they land is where the guests will sit.” The remark was not original, but I didn’t care. It was a stress-releaser to say something witty!
To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever actually done that (thrown the cards up in the air), but the concept does have a certain appeal. This is especially true when one considers the fact that some people cancel the day before the wedding, or even the day of the wedding. Last-minute changes like that can upset the “balance” at a table—a balance that we worked hard to achieve. Hopefully everyone was pleased with her table—but if not, I sincerely hope not to hear about it.
In conclusion, the wedding was spectacular. I was thrilled for the new couple and I got to bask in the glow of everyone’s happiness. My thinking is that never has one person done so little and received so much! All evening long, mazel tovs came my way, and I loved every minute of it. As of this writing, the likelihood is that the rest of the gang—both sets of parents and the assorted siblings who danced their feet off—are probably still pooped. But I wasn’t one bit tired! I can’t wait to marry off my next grandchild! That’s the way it is. v
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.