Adapted from "Theresa Weisberg's Wedding" in "Nice Jewish Girls Growing Up in America."
(Daughter: You got married on July 17, 1932, a forty-four year marriage that never ended in divorce in spite of the conversation you had before getting married . . . )
Yes, a friend predicted that as long as the two of us dance together we'll stay married, but once we stop dancing we'll get a divorce.
(And you never stopped dancing . . . )
And we never stopped dancing, so she was right. But the wedding was a real fiasco, the wedding to end all weddings.
First of all, you know Dad was an only child. I never met his father, who had died. His mother was not only Orthodox, she was ultra-Orthodox and superstitious and everything that goes with that. She didn't want him to marry me once she met me because to her I was like a shikse, I was a Jewish girl that was not religious. She said she would rather that he marry a non-Jewish girl and then she would help convert her, but she wasn't going to teach me anything. She was very unhappy.
My mother, on the other hand, thought Al was a great guy, which he was. She was happy.
For the wedding, we didn't have very much money, since it was the depression. But still my mother invited everybody, my brothers invited their friends, I invited my friends, and Al invited his fraternity brothers. The wedding was in my house on the hottest day of the year.
I was eating a peach and ironing my wedding dress when the doorbell rang. I ran downstairs to get the wire, and I swallowed the peach pit. I couldn't bring it up again. It was stuck. Everybody kept giving me water and milk and bread, all the home remedies. Finally it went down.
Then my mother insisted on helping me pack, though I told her to leave my things alone. But she thought she should help me.
I worked then at the V.A. Hospital, so I would get my eye wash and other medicinals like alcohol from the hospital. The eye wash and the alcohol were both colorless and in bottles. So my mother packed away my eye wash. I went to put some of the colorless fluid in an eye cup, I put it in my eye, and it's alcohol. My eye blew up. So I had makeup on one eye, and no makeup on the other eye. The beautiful bride.
Then I'm ironing the wedding dress, and you know I used to get nose bleeds. And I get a nose bleed right on the wedding dress. We had to wash out the wedding dress, and we never got the blood spot out.
Then the guests start coming. Now my mother-in-law brings ten old men from her little shul as witnesses and mine is not a kosher home so they stand around not knowing what to do with themselves, and she clung to her son Al.
While I'm getting dressed upstairs at the neighbors, Al's mother asks the rabbi, Is there any way of stopping this wedding? It's the wrong thing for her son. She knows a rabbi who has a daughter, and that's who she'd like him to marry.
The rabbi says about me, She's a very nice, educated girl, you should be very proud. She said No, I want a religious girl, she doesn't have to be educated, I want a religious girl!
So the rabbi talked to her, finally quieting her down.
Anyway, two of my brothers and two of their friends are holding up the chuppah, and the rabbi tells me in English that he's going to do the whole thing in Hebrew. But at one point he says he wants to have me walk around Al seven times. It was a religious ceremony. Do I have to do that? I ask. He says yes. I say Well, I don't think I want to do that. He says You have to do it for this kind of ceremony. So I say Well, I'll think about it. He says You have to do it. I say okay.
Meanwhile, Al is saving his travel shoes so he won't spoil them and he's wearing my brother Maury's shoes, which are a size smaller than his feet. And he's uncomfortable, and he can hardly stand, and he can't wait for this wedding to be over.
Just as the wedding starts, Al's mother gets hysterical. She starts screaming in Yiddish, "She's taking my only child from me! She's taking my only child from me!"
And my sister Maria, not to be outdone, starts to yell, "He's taking my only sister from me! He's taking my only sister from me!" And everybody is saying, "Quiet, quiet. We can't hear the rabbi." The room is full and it's hot, and finally the rabbi says what he has to say and he starts moving me around Dad seven times. After each time I stop; I don't want to go around another time, and he makes me finally go around a seventh time.
Finally Dad has to break the glass. But he wasn't so sure of himself because they weren't his shoes, and he klunked on the glass so hard that all the plaster from the ceiling below fell down on my brother's bed. This was a good omen.
Al couldn't wait to take those shoes off, and he went in the bedroom, and he got on his travel shoes. My sister was in there crying, and I said, "What in the hell are you crying about?"
"I don't know," she says, "but Al's mother was crying, so I cried with her."
Well, meanwhile, the ten men who were so kosher decided to sit down and they practically ate up the entire wedding feast. My mother had made all the gefilte fish and the strudel, and everyone else brought dishes of food. That's what you did in the depression, you know, like for rent parties. They sat down and took up the whole table, and kosher as they were, it didn't bother them that they were eating in a very non-kosher home.
And then Al and I just decided we're hungry and there was nothing left to eat, so we're leaving. We were going straight to New York on the cheapest Red Star bus line you can go on, twenty-five dollars. It was the worst. We made every stop and the bus didn't have the inside toilet you usually have now on the big Greyhounds, so I wasn't in tune with their toilet schedule. When I had to go it didn't stop, and when it stopped, I never had to go. And I was getting crankier and more irritated, and Dad was getting more irritated with me getting irritated.
By the time we got to Pittsburgh we weren't speaking to each other. And by the time we got to New York, to the Hotel Edison, I said to him You know, don't even register, I think I'll just turn around. I'll cash in some of our traveler's checks and go home. Al said, Listen, calm down, let's go upstairs and we'll work it out. As Daddy would say, we worked it out.