My Daughter Met her Husband in the Middle
I was 18 when I stood up with my 20-year-old husband and we promised in front of family and friends to forsake all others for the rest of our lives. My husband's mother gave me a necklace from India that she said had a special blessing to keep me in love with my husband. My husband's parents were divorced and his father had remarried. Four years later my parents divorced and my father remarried. That marriage lasted 5 years, and he remarried again.
Then my brother got married. They had the wedding I'd always wanted – barefoot in the park. They had a lovely daughter. Theirs was a mixed religion marriage. My brother doesn't really have a religion, and his wife belongs to a huggy California Christian church that ends services every Sunday with hugging somebody new. A year ago, his wife hugged the choir director, a man she had said openly she did not like. Something odd happened. She says she felt her heart go out of her chest into him, and his heart entered her. She could talk of nothing else for months. He had been engaged to be married, but called it off.
She and my brother entered marriage counseling. One evening his wife announced that she would simply explode if she couldn't go live with the choir director. She walked out of the therapy session and drove to the choir director's house. Their daughter was having a sleep over that night, so she transferred it to the choir director's house. None of the families of the girls attending this slumber party objected. My brother says she took less stuff to the choir director's house than she takes when she packs for a weekend to visit her mother.
She emailed me that "having two men in love with you isn't as much fun as it sounds like." That was never one of my fantasies. I do sometimes fantasize about cloning my husband so I'll have two of him, but two different men has never appealed to me. She also wrote that my brother and their daughter hadn't been getting along well, but thanks to her moving out, they now have a good relationship, and her moving out was the "only way this could have happened."
My brother's wife has moved in and out several times since then and is now renting a cottage and living with neither man who loves her. She's not talking to me because I told my brother I think she's having a mid-life crisis. And I know two other people, one male and one female who have felt their hearts exchange during a hug. They both say it's a great experience but it doesn't mean you've found your true love. My brother's wife thinks it means that the choir director was her brother in a previous lifetime and now in this lifetime, maybe she is supposed to marry him. But then maybe there's a reason she met and married my brother first. She's confused.
In the midst of all this, we all attended my younger daughter's mixed religion wedding. She had both a rabbi and a priest in a non-denominational round chapel that had no symbols of any religion. They were legally married before the ceremony with double sets of papers – the ones required by the state of Virginia, and a ketuba to make the wedding recognized under Jewish law.
While the wedding was mostly Jewish, along with a candle ceremony that looked like a fertility rite that she'd read about somewhere, and readings from the New Testament, the most impressive part was her modern touch. She refused to have her dad walk her down the aisle like a piece of property. Instead, she asked all four parents, and her husband to walk to the chupah at one end of the aisle. Then she walked half-way up the aisle, and her husband walked half-way back to meet her in the middle. Then they walked together to the chupah for the ceremony, and the parents walked back to their seats.
I raised her that way. And while she still thinks I'm totally out-of-touch, she demonstrated that she had bought into several of my most important lessons. She's not property. She has her own life. Her parents can only watch now while she makes her own decisions. She chose her husband. She doesn't belong to her father to give away or to her husband to accept. She meets people in the middle, if they are willing to walk there to meet her. She honors tradition where it makes sense to her, but not otherwise. She's willing to incorporate other cultures into her own life. She did me proud, even crying at her own wedding.
I found it surreal to sit there with my divorced parents, my probably soon-to-be-divorced brother, my father's third wife, my husband's father's second wife, and watch my daughter and her new husband promise to forsake all others for the rest of their lives.
When I said those words 33 years ago, I had no doubts. I have been lucky never to have had occasion to doubt. I don't know why some marriages work and others don't. But I gave my daughter the necklace my husband's mother gave me on my wedding day, with a blessing to keep her in love with her husband. My daughter wrote me that she hung the necklace on a totem she brought back from the Philippines that has a blessing to guard her home.
So, despite all our modern ideas, are we still superstitious? I don't know. But is that any different than hoping my daughter will be lucky and never have reason to doubt those vows?