Saturday, September 19, 2009

We get married in circles

So, let's talk about the hora, shall we? Like A., I don't really want to report the wedding to you in a blow by blow, chronological fashion. Instead, let's use the topics that occur to me (or to you, just ask in a comment) and see where that takes us. Chances are, I'll get distracted and not tell the whole story, but then I get to relate it little by little as I tell other stories.

Fun, right?

So, the hora. What a great way to re-enter a celebration after taking my man by the hand and leading him off into yichud. I remember realizing that it was time after everyone shouted "Mazel Tov!" and realizing that no one else would tell us what to do next. I think I said something like, "OK, let's go!"As an aside, yichud is a time for the bride and groom to be together alone immediately following the ceremony. After hearing a horrow story about a woman whose mother-in-law followed them into yichud because "her feet were tired," I made sure to get good yichud guards and their 2-year-old son. Because who doesn't want to talk to a 2-year-old as the first public thing they do as a married couple? Our friends told us they thought they would be ceremonial but had to turn a surprising number of people away.

But after talking to young Sam about shoes and fruit for a little bit, we got down to the business of celebrating. Although we spoke to a few people who were still in the foyer near the food and wine, we quickly entered the hall and threaded our way to the dance floor and started spinning. At least that what it felt like.

I don't know if Jacob and I danced alone at first and people joined us or if people jumped right in. I know that early on, I really liked dancing the actual grapevine steps because it made the ruffles of my skirt flare. Soon, Jacob and I were grinning intensely into each other's faces as we spun and then his parents and then my parents joined us in a big circle. I think that as I looked beyond Jacob, I saw probably 60 people in two circles around us. It's all kind of a jumble, actually. I know that at one point, the girlfriend of one of Jacob's closest friends, danced a different step with me and I was so grateful to her for welcoming me into her Jewishness. I then went and found my friend Tabitha (who introduced Jacob and I) and danced with her.

In yichud, Jacob told me that he really came into appreciating the work I did to prepare for the wedding because he panicked right before the ceremony about being put into the air on folding chairs. He found the site coordinator and asked for solid ones and was shown that they were already in place in the front. I melted a little bit when he told me that because there was always a little bit of niggling struggle in the back of my head that we were falling into stereotypical gender roles. He plays the sugar daddy who can't figure out why I'm so exhausted at the end of each day planning the wedding and I play the whiny woman who holds all the cards tightly in order to validate her existence. I swear, when he said on the day before the wedding that we should remember to take the marriage license that I already had packed in a box to take to the venue, I could see our special guest appearance on Everybody Loves Raymond clearly in my mind. In economic terms, for the last 3 months, we have had a differentiated household. Jacob takes care of the living expenses; I take care of wedding logistics and process the concommitant family drama. However, it wasn't until Jacob noticed the fruits of my labors that I really felt that we were equal partners in our differentiation.

So, with the solid chairs that were stationed at the front, Jacob's mother took charge of the chair lifting during the hora. She told me how to sit on the chair and where to hold on. The part of me that longs for a good relationship with her was glad to see that she felt like she was welcome and an integral part of the action. Later, she pulled the chairs together in the middle of the dance floor and said, "Sit. Now we have to entertain you." I had not prepped anyone for this Jewish tradition because I decided to use my persuasive skills on other things, like getting people to actually feel comfortable dancing and getting people to move outside their comfort zone to make us quilt squares. But Jacob's mom led the way, dancing across the space in front of us holding an imaginary baby in her arms and getting a friend to dance back with her.

And people really caught on. I was amazed to see my friends and Jacob's family huddle their heads together to figure out some goofy dance that they could do. Every time I thought the pause between acts felt uncomfortably too long and was about get up and go back to dancing, someone else stepped in. My mom traipsed across the space looking ridiculous and completely lovable in her vulnerability. I clapped my hands above my head each time someone finished. It was an extra special gift when my cousin's brother-in-law danced for us since he is a principal dancer for the Hubbard Street Dance Company.

Then, it was back to the circle dancing. I could have done this all night. On the wedding blog I wrote:

Love sometimes feels overwhelming and too fast but also just plain fun. It is exhilarating and makes you feel like you might fall down. When you feel love, you want to make all of the right steps but sometimes you’re just so busy moving forward (or moving in an oblong orbit) that you can’t really get your feet under you enough to dance the pattern.

This is an argument for dancing the hora. It recreates and affirms our own experiences with love and communicates our hopes for more love to find us in the future.

I didn't realize until just now that the explanation I published in our program for the circling at the beginning of the ceremony is also reflected in the hora:
Bride and bridegroom performed the Dance of Isaiah. Hip to hip, arms interwoven to hold hands, [They] circumnabulate once, twice and then again, spinning the cocoon of their life together. No patriarchal linearity here. We . . . get married in circles, to impress upon ourselves the essential matrimonial facts: that to be happy, you have to find variety in repetition; that to go forward you have to come back to where you began.
Meg of A Practical Wedding told me that it "slayed" her that I was using footnotes in my program. In the footnotes, I credited Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex for that quote.

We actually forgot to circle each other at the beginning of our ceremony, even though we had practiced a couple of hours earlier. When I remembered, I stopped the rabbi and we did it right before the first kiddush. It was a good thing, too, since my pastor based her whole sermon on the idea that we get married in circles. We dance the hora in circles.

And it's stinkin' fun, too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Augh I can already tell that I will looooove your recaps. Beautiful. Mazel Tov!

Also the hem of your dres...I would marry it. Pun intended.