Life has a funny way of throwing curve balls. Sometimes I am ready to face an obstacle head on. Other times, the unexpected event knocks me over. My greatest tools for overcoming defeat are determination and resiliency. After years of childhood frustrations, I learned that I couldn’t be pummeled by every situation that did not go my way.
During my first year in college, I decided that I had to be resourceful and hardy. It was not wise to run away from challenging events. I could be reserved, but at the same time I had to make confident decisions.
Despite this positive attitude, I faltered, but nonetheless rebounded, at the tender age of eighteen. Unlike most of my peers who were entrenched in their freshman year of college, I had fallen in love. It was not puppy love. This was the real thing.
I was engaged and was on the verge of getting married. I would be entering my sophomore year in college walking hand-in-hand with my b’shert (meant to be companion).
Huh. Why wasn’t I ecstatic?
The answer was simple. It was two words- my parents.
Almost everything associated with my upcoming marriage was not “right” in their eyes. The disagreements were numerous and bizarre. Why did my parents care about wedding colors? Why did it matter if my wedding dress did not have a ruffle at the end of the sleeve? Did they really think there was a conservative or traditional rabbi who would perform a wedding before sundown on a Saturday night?
Each conflict snowballed into another issue. Before I knew it, my parents wanted to control every aspect of the wedding as well as the coming years of my married life.
Rational thinking was put aside. I was in the midst of a tug-of-war competition that was pitting my past against my future. Suddenly and without warning, my parents felt that my husband and his family had magically changed me. They were unable to accept the fact that I was an adult with my own opinions even though I had lived alone, out-of-state, for almost a year.
If I had been the oldest, I could have understood their inability to let go. But I was their fourth child to go off to college and return. I had witnessed, and been a party to, their irrational thinking before. This time around, I was crushed. Instead of sharing the joy of the moment, they were doing everything in their power to make my future husband run away.
Amidst the tears of frustration, Ira and I had to take control of the situation. We met with Rabbi Kaganoff zt”l (1924-2009), the officiating rabbi. He suggested that we reschedule the wedding to an earlier date and have a scaled down event in the rabbi’s study. By eliminating all of the sources of contention, he felt the situation would stop spiraling out of control.
Unfortunately, his recommendation only succeeded in putting more fuel on the already blazing fire. Our new plan was not acceptable to my parents. Unless they were in complete control, they were unable to derive any joy from our wedding. Letting go of their tight constraint was not possible.
It became clear that my parents and siblings might boycott my wedding. I could not understand why they would voluntarily miss such a milestone in my life.
Just a handful of days before my rescheduled wedding, I visited my father on Father’s Day. I can vividly recall him asking a question that no parent should ever ask a child:
“Who do you love more, your parents or your fiancé?”
Beads of sweat formed on my face. Blood was pumping vigorously throughout my body. I shook my head in disbelief. I was only eighteen and my father was asking me to choose between my parents and my fiancé.
I looked him straight in the eye and said, “If you are asking me to choose between my past and my future, I am going to choose my future. You will always be my parents.”
For unknown reasons, my parents were unwilling to accept my future husband. I assumed that they struggled with the concept of letting go.
- Would my love for my fiancé prevail?
- Would I be able to complete my college education?
- Would my parents not provide any financial support?
- Would my parents ever relinquish their stubborn irrational behavior?
I did not have a crystal ball. I had to go with my gut feelings.
A few days later, Ira and I drove together to Congregation Ezras Israel in Chicago. I was dressed in my prenuptial dress. Ira wore one of his suits. The wedding dress that had been a source of disagreement hung silently on a rack at the Bonwitt Teller Wedding Shop. The wedding chupah (canopy) would not have any colorful flowers. It would be tallit (prayer shawl) held up by four people.
A quick afternoon rain left a double rainbow in its wake. We rejoiced at its beauty and the hope associated with its presence.
Not knowing whether or not any of my family would come, my in-laws chose to personally invite dozens of their friends and relatives. To my disappointment, only part of my family came to the wedding. They missed our lovely marriage ceremony and the beginning of the next chapter of my life.
Were your parents ready to let go?
Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and a Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.