Avi ... start writing that screenplay now
I hope the above reply wasn't too flippant or insulting. It's difficult for me to tell what is meant seriously, sometimes, but, truth be told, our wedding would make one hell of a comedy. You know how I say Beni’s family hates me? Well, this is why. Beni called her family from Israel and said, “Get over here; I’m getting married.” I married her 2 weeks to the day after I met her (well, the dates were right; if you’re Jewish you know what I’m saying – if not, it’s weird and complicated, don’t worry about this detail). Her family and mine met for the first time 2 days before the wedding. Her mother’s first words upon meeting me were to hiss, “What kind of a Jew is this!” Then she turned to her husband and said in Yiddish, “I think he’s ayn bissel schwartze (a bit of a nigger).” Nice. My mother’s family is Yemenite (so, yes, I probably do have some African blood), living in Israel since the mid-eighteenth
century and my father’s family comes from a very remote area of what would be Kurdistan - where they lived in isolation and spoke freakin’ Aramaic until 1948. Ya can’t get more Jewish than that. Still, there were more Yiddish words on the horizon. Beni is descended from some Ashkenazi big-shot, and this is how I learned the term “yichus (status).” I don’t have any. The other lead balloon was the fact that to marry as a Jew in Israel is not such an easy thing. It was Beni who had to provide her bona fides to the proper authorities, not me, which ticked Mama off no end.
I’ll skip over the ceremony itself – stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, droning recitation, the ring, sign the papers, etc. It’s a very long intro to a very long day filled with various oddities that I can describe if anyone really wants to know. The funny part begins after the service, when the bride and groom are given a few minutes to themselves, before the hoe-down and stampede begin. Beni and I were upstairs in my father’s bedroom, where snacks and drinks were laid out for us. It’s customary to fast until this point. Of course, you feel like you’ve been spun in a centrifuge and then shot through a wind tunnel, queasy and light-headed and ramped up on adrenalin. Add the nerves on top of it all, and you, too, might do what I did: run into the bathroom and retch. Now there’s the mouth with which you want to learn to kiss your bride. I came out of the bathroom, looking rather green, and Beni took one look at me and burst into tears. Oh no, no! I took her in my arms, now in tears myself, and said “Shh, shh,” and all that, patting her back. Suddenly, there came a banging on the door. “Is that my daughter crying
in there? What
have you done?” Dear mama-in-law was standing outside the whole time with her ear to the door. I opened the door and I said, as though addressing one of my superior officers, “Ma’am, it’s been a stressful day, ma’am, as I’m sure you remember, and I want you to know, ma’am, that if ever your daughter cries, I cry, too.” No dice. My father slipped in behind dear mama, looking in the air above his head for the English words he knew were there somewhere. Finally, he eked out, “My son……hee ees…good boy,” with the satisfaction of a man who thought he was constipated but discovered that he wasn’t. Mama rolled her eyes in his face. Beni finally realized it was up to her. She said, “Mom, you need to bring me my bag so I can fix my make-up.” With a grand harrumph, Mama turned on her heel and said, “Something sure needs fixing!”
My father gave us a handful of ginger chewies (thank the Creator for the Australians who made aliyah to join our kibbutz and help with the wine production), and went out, shutting the door behind him. We thought this rather strange, but ginger chewies calm the savage digestive tract and clean up your breath after fasting, with the added plus of a small boost of sugar. But as we watched each other chewing our cud, we were struck with the giggles. Mama returned to find us laughing and pawing the air in one another’s direction. We giggled for a bit until Beni grabbed her bag and went into the bathroom, guffawing all the way. Mama and I stood at the end of the bed in uncomfortable silence, punctuated by my snickers, staring down at the quilt. Big mistake. As she looked down upon that bed, it hit her right between the eyes what I was going to do to her precious daughter later that night. These thoughts occurred to me, too, and I’m sure my face was suffused with the stupidest giggly bliss, evah. Mama gave me a look of pure, unadulterated hatred, and then, we both heard Beni rebound giggle. That was the final straw. Everything seemed to go to slo-mo. I tried to scoot around Mama and run for the door, but it was not to be. With a rebel yell, Mama launched herself onto my back, grabbing my feathery-fluffy 80’s hair-do in her fists and pulling out clumps of my hair. I could sympathize with the fact that I was taking her baby away and she hadn’t had much time to come to terms with it, but at that moment I just wanted to deck her. My father stood helplessly in the hallway, words having deserted him again, shaking his head and saying, “Ma’am…ma’am…ma’am, please
,” as Mama’s fists rained down upon my head. Beni tore out of the bathroom and pulled her mother off of me, then, with arms upraised like Yael wielding a tent peg, she blocked me from further pummeling. Poor Mama. She saw where her daughter’s loyalties now lay, and she sank down, wailing loudly enough to compete with the foghorns in the Port of Haifa. I looked down at my wedding finery, covered with mascara, hair and blood, grabbed Beni’s hand, and said, “Fuck it! You’re an Israeli now!” Naturally, Mama stopped wailing as we passed, long enough to say, “Such a mouth! Feh!” but, thankfully, she had lost steam. We went to my bedroom and changed into t-shirts and blue jeans. Mama couldn’t believe it when we came out. She asked Beni, “You’re wearing pants now?” I said, “Yes, she’s wearing pants and we’re going back to the party and you’re going to pretend to be happy for your daughter, whatever it takes.”
I hadn’t counted on the impression we would make once we returned to party-central. We had changed our clothes, our hair was wrecked and I had scratches on my neck. Some looked upon me with awe and others with disgust, but the Israeli contingent, after gazing upon us, ran out of the building en masse to change their own clothes (if they had bothered to dress up in the first place). And we went out on the dance floor and danced to Madonna’s Dress You Up
(yes, we did):
Next, the guys in my unit and I performed
the song. Mama watched this in utter dread. She said, “What are you, a feigele
(homosexual)?” as we danced near. We grabbed her off the chair and the guys made
her boogie. And I turned to Mama and said, “Fuck it! You’re an Israeli now!” There is a g-d, Mama finally laughed. After Get into the Groove
, she was unstoppable. Every anniversary, we toast Madonna, in spite of all that Kabbalah crap.