Road Tripby Andrea Simantov November 5, 2019
The moment I learned that my favorite (only!) niece had become engaged to marry, I pulled out the calculator, moved around a couple of zeros, booked a ticket to New York and made a short list of where to look for a dress. My elderly mother had two requests for me: “The bridal party color is champagne. I ordered something stunning on line that I hope will mask my defective hip. Wear champagne,” and “Whatever you do, don’t look Israeli.”
Not intending to burst the bubble of a 90-year-old, no one asked me to be in the bridal party and I determined that it would take a certain kind of chutzpah to assume that my sister-in-law and company wanted me to match the hand-picked attendants. I told mom, “Sorry, champagne isn’t my color and I just remembered that I’m a guest.” Her aloud response? “Suit yourself. You’ve always been contrary.”
Nevertheless, I understood what she meant by the “Don’t look Israeli” barb. Israelis tend to dress more casually for weddings. Like designer jeans and good-quality t-shirts. As a religious woman, I cover my hair with colorful head-scarfs, and wear lots of hand-crafted jewelry with spiritual or biblical significance. And while I am not so casual as to attend catered affairs in Crocs, the fact remains that I haven’t worn heels since February 2011 when I walked a daughter down the wedding aisle. (I kicked them off after the groom stepped on the glass.)
With precious little time for shopping, I went to three Haredi dress stores. Budget-minded, I tried on several frocks that made me look like a Chrysler minivan until, lo and behold, The Dress called me from the overstuffed racks. Blue tulle and lace, it was studded with an adequate number of sequins and pearls to hush my mother’s fears. Because the sample was too large (there is a G-d), the correct size was ordered; I paid in full.
I bought contact lenses. Washed and restyled my wig. Discovered a pair of once-attractive pumps in a storage bag and threw my paltry goods into a carry-on bag. My husband drove me to the airport, pushed me out of a still moving car and I boarded the no-frills flight with a bag laden with kosher food to sustain me on the journey. Thankfully I’d brought a shawl because they charged for blankets, pillows, water, air. (Factoid: 58 Norwegian kroner is equivalent to $6.37, or the cost of a bottle of in-flight water. Factoid: Cash buys squat; international credit cards only.)
Once in New York, I hopped into a waiting car and–Friday morning already–fell into bed in Mom’s house. I exercised on the boardwalk, prepared shabbos, greeted my sister who drove down from Boston and, upon making Havdalah to usher out the Shabbat on Saturday night, we three peppy gals piled into Mom’s rarely driven Toyota and embarked on “Geezer Road Trip, 2019.”
We fueled ourselves at highway rest stations with coffee and potato chips, and I posed for embarrassing selfies at Cinnabons and Starbucks. Arriving at the wedding hotel in suburban Baltimore at 2:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, my traveling companions immediately fell asleep. I’d driven the entire time and was too energized for rest.
The wedding was a dream. My niece had waited for her Heaven-sent partner and as she
approached the chuppah, he stepped forward to greet her. They locked eyes and simultaneously began sobbing tears of gratitude. The entire assemblage wept along with them. G-d’s essence filled a room that was already rife with Jewish joy.
Adding to the simcha, several first cousins attended, flying in from various US cities. After the band packed up and the caterer called it quits, we put together a “Cousins Club Pajama Party” in the lobby–bagels, lox, and cream cheese, of course–and laughed until daybreak, reminiscing about long-gone loved ones and revisiting some of the more infamous tales of our respective childhoods.
After a few hours of sleep, Mom, Sis and I returned to New York. I exited the auto at JFK and my sister drove Mom home.
My head was still spinning in a whirlwind of happiness as I limped onto the plane, toes sore from the shoes I’d happily left in the hotel suite. Enveloped in happiness, I was able to dedicate the long flight to thoughts of gratitude for the magical journey and, no doubt, the miracles which lie ahead.