Having been thoroughly inspired by other retellings of the magical weekend, and having had my head finally settled back on my shoulders and with its hearing restored, I'm ready. Are you ready? It's time to hit the highlights!
PRE-WEDDING (thru Thurs.)
My office surprised me with Tiffany candlesticks in addition to the department lunch in my honor, which Mr. Ben got to attend. I was overwhelmed -- I couldn't believe I was lucky enough to have such a wonderful boss and to be surrounded by such sweet, smart co-workers. And funny, too. Said coworkers all signed cards, wishing me good luck. The best message came from N., a young editor and one of the few straight men around. "Dear Ester," it read, "May your first child be a masculine child."
I had to see the immortal Dr. L., also, for a refill of my rx. for adulthood. Though the office visit was quick and dirty, of course I still owed the $40 co-pay. Feeling a bit frisky, I asked, as I passed over the cash, "How is this different than a drug deal?" Dr. L. laughed. "Ha ha ha!" he said. "Ha ha! -- But seriously, drug dealers don't care about your health."
Down in DC, I woke up early, met two of my 'maidz, and, for the first time in my life, visited the Mikvah. Ritual bathing -- i.e., skinny dipping for the Lord -- was not something I had really looked forward to, but it turned out to be one of the most moving parts of the weekend. The Mikvah Lady was calm and easy-going; being in the quiet water was strangely comforting; and the walk through the synagogue past where I had gone to nursery school lo these many years ago was a nice little bit of sentiment to start me off right.
A flurry of more secular spa treatments followed and then a huge Shabbes dinner for both sides of the newly blended family. People began to tell me I looked different. I wondered if it was true.
Step 2 on our Path to a Jewish Wedding was an aufruf at my family's synagogue. It felt a bit funny to me to be observing all these religious customs when basically I don't practice in my real life. But when Mr. Ben and I got up to the Torah and read the blessing and were greeted with a rousing chorus of "Siman Tov en Mazel Tov!" twice over, the joy of it felt right. Community -- that's what religion is for.
Once everyone recovered from the Rehearsal outside in the 97 degree heat, Mr. Ben's father (Dr. Mr. Ben?) threw a rousing rehearsal dinner at an Indian restaurant; my mother countered by throwing a rousing dinner/dessert shindig back at the apartment for all out of town guests. Being the bride, I was passed from person to person, smiling, greeting, thanking, laughing. Before long, all that rousing left me giddy but woozy and it was up to my 'maidz to take me upstairs, figure out how to remove my jewelry, and then unhook my corset and let me fall out of it to sleep.
Hair! Makeup! Get ready! Put the now-adorned corset back on (with help from the 'maidz)! Breathe deep! Don't smudge anything! Look up and realize, holy shit, it's going to rain.
It won't rain, said my mother, looking ravishing. Don't worry.
Once at Woodend and into my dress, I became a Bride. Cameras bloomed everywhere, cameras at every angle. Smile! Smile! I am an adult and can handle whatever comes along, especially when I've found the right chemical balance.
Outside (photographers trailing) I met up with Mr. Ben for the first time, all tuxedo-ed up. He looked fantastic. Walk a little way into that prettyish wilderness, instructed the photographer. We obliged and on the way, as cameras snapped behind us, Mr. Ben whispered, "Wanna hear something that'll freak you out?"
He'd forgotten his tuxedo jacket in New York. Luckily his best man had given him the coat of his back -- and more luckily, they're roughly the same size. Just don't tell my mother, I whispered.
Back inside, we waited almost an hour for the rabbi to come sign the Ketubah. My little brother, the problem solver & sometime pirate, called him at home to hurry him along; and when he heard that Mr. Ben had (oops!) also forgotten his tallit to wear to the ceremony, he hopped over to the synagogue and nipped one out of the sanctuary, setting off alarms but not staying to get caught. And it was his birthday! Way to go, bro.
The rabbi arrived at last. The ink from our signing our lives away had hardly dried before the wedding planner started whisking everyone toward the grove. A light mist kept everyone cool, including some deer, who wandered up to watch as I joined my 'maidz, my family, and Mr. Ben looking magnificent in his borrowed finery under the chuppah.
After the exchange of rings and sips of wine, Mr. Ben broke the glass with real verve and we kissed and there were butterflies (real ones!) and to yet another round of "Siman Tov en Mazel Tov!" we were off, hand in hand, to the main house for a few minutes in private before the party.
And oh, then, WHAT a party it was. People everywhere, and food, and beautiful toasts (my older brother, polished and funny as always, gave about six of them), gorgeous tropical flowers, and a multi-colored cake that looked like a tower of presents, and music! The band played on and on and everyone danced until they were exhausted and beyond, and there was a Hora like nothing I'd ever experienced -- a whirling dervish of a Hora that just got madder and madder as guests ran in circles, singing their hearts out, grabbing each others' hands, lifting us up on chairs ... If, when the music medley finally stopped, everyone had fallen down on the ground a la "the Time Warp" I would not have been the least bit surprised.
And the best part was my father, chemo'ed and running on borrowed blood cells, Hora-ing right along with the rest. He didn't faint; he didn't so much as trip. He danced at my wedding.
We couldn't stop dancing even when the band took a well-deserved break because the best man put on 69 Love Songs. People I loved from across the country, some of whom I hadn't seen in years, bopped along to "The Ugliest Guy from the Lower East Side" and "Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits" and it was perfect. Just perfect. Then the band came back and one of the singers -- a buxom black woman with a great voice and a huge, rhinestone Star of David -- came out on the floor to lead us all in "I Will Survive." Because -- why? Because it's a wedding, fool! Dance!
At midnight, Mr. Ben and I were pulled reluctantly away from the shining mass of goodwill and we made it to our honeymoon suite where we were really alone for the first time in days. There, gently and painstakingly, he disassembled what the hairdresser, the makeup artist, six 'maidz, and my mother had put together, and, transformation complete, submerged the post-bride in the bathtub.
It was an amazing weekend, one I'll never forget, and I have my parents to thank for all of it -- as well as everyone who came for enjoying it so much and Mr. Ben for looking so radiantly happy. I can't believe it's over but then, I can't believe something so beautiful and transformative could have really happened.