My Zaydeh Chaim - that's Grandpa Charlie to you - leads the procession,floating serenely above us as in a Chagall painting. Among the first to cometo America from Sokolov, his shtetl, his littlevillage in Poland, it was said of him that he could never decide whether thetraditional shot of schnapps at the start of the Sabbath meal should comebefore or after the gefilte fish. In a sagacious compromise, he settled onone before and one after. It doubtless made for a more festive Sabbath. Asagacious man, my grandfather.
The groom's brother, who got religion and moved to Israel, has returned forthe wedding, but he could have just arrived from the '40s - the 1840s - inhis black kaftan, earlocks and streimel, the high glossy fur hat favored bysome Chasidic Jews on Sabbaths and festivals. What's old is new again. Ispot him at the same time I hear the first high notes of the clarinet in theklezmer band. Sokolov lives!
We get to talking, and it turns out that both the groom and his brother wentto Catholic High in Little Rock, Ark. We exchange stories about FatherTribou, the school's legendary headmaster, and about their taking MarineCorps Junior ROTC there.
Hey, what a country.
All vows exchanged, all rites fully observed, the tears wiped away and thelaughter still resounding, it is time for the groom to smash the wine glassand conclude the wedding ceremony, which he does with aplomb. Mazel tov! Good luck! The knot is tied, the deed done. All islost, all is gained.
From across the crowded room comes the giggle of a baby being bounced onsomebody's knee in time to a klezmer tune - a reminder of what all thisceremonial finery is really about. The ghosts dance and posterity awaits.
As the next chapter of the family begins, glasses are raised. L'chaim! To life! Past, present and future have been joinedagain. Let's eat.