GRAND Magazine - January/February 2019 - 5

memories and moments

So I danced

BY MARJORIE BUCKHOLTZ

P

lanning was in high gear for our daughter's wedding: May
25, 2018. At 38, Hillary was the last of our four children
to marry. Her biggest fan and staunchest supporter was
Nana, my 99 year old mother. Nana grew up in a world where
telephones were used only on special occasions and when
horses rather than automobiles clogged the streets. In her day,
"gay" meant happy and the races did not mix. Married "ladies"
stayed home to raise their children, and Jewish singles like
Hillary were expected to marry within the faith. "Nice" girls, it
goes without saying, saved themselves for marriage.
Since the mid-1950s, when I became a teenager and could
observe my mother as a person instead of "just" a mom. I watched
with wonder as the world changed around her-and as she changed
with it. A working mom when it was still frowned upon, she ran a
small department store with my dad. She smoked cigarettes, drank
martinis occasionally and eventually believed in civil justice, equal
rights, and, to my father's horror, women's liberation. She rejoiced
when Obama was elected twice and was proud, at age 98, to submit
her absentee ballot for Hillary Clinton. She actively engaged in political discussions in her community, and often railed at what she called
the "old-fashioned" attitudes of some of her neighbors.

"

"

"As her health worsened, she seemed
to shrink in stature but grew even
more resolute..."

Even so, when Hillary brought home her non-Jewish partner,
we thought perhaps she might push Nana over the line. However,
after getting to know him my mother proclaimed thoughtfully,
"Do I wish he were Jewish? Of course, but it's not a deal breaker!

5 GRAND

JANUARY FEBRUARY 2019

"So why now, after all this time?" she asked, genuinely wondering, but secretly hoping that they might be pregnant. "No
way!" Hillary exclaimed. "We want you to be there, Nana," and she
humorously added one of Nana's favorite lines, "You know, you're
not getting any younger," she laughed, and they all enjoyed the
moment.
Her body was frail, but her mind was sharp, and she was deeply
engaged in the wedding planning: daily discussions swirled
around the venue, flowers, the guest list, party favors. She loved
Hillary's gown, wiping away tears at the sheer beauty of this statuesque woman she had once cradled in her arms. And when she
saw the formal photo, noting that Hillary was wearing the six foot
long, re-embroidered alencon lace mantilla that she had bought
for my wedding, 52 years ago, she was speechless. "She looks
'almost' as beautiful as you did in that veil," She said finally, with
more happy tears.
As her health worsened, she seemed to shrink in stature but
grew even more resolute about attending the wedding. "I will be
there!" she announced, adamantly, nearly every day.
One month before the wedding date, in response to her weakening condition, the nurses added oxygen and increased morphine to help her labored breathing. Her caregivers hatched a
set a date. Each of us in the family took turns explaining their
plan to do her hair and makeup, dress her classiest suit, and take
position on marriage as they had explained it to us. It went like
her to the ceremony for long enough to be rolled down the aisle
this: They love one another deeply and fully and are committed
in her wheelchair and sit under the chuppah for the short cereto a lifetime together-and doubt how a marriage certificate can
strengthen their relationship. To them, it's only a piece of paper . "I mony. She would get to watch her bride circle the groom seven
times, hear the vows and the prayers, and shout Mazal Tov! as he
don't get it," she admitted, again and again.
smashed the wine glass. They would then spirit her away, having
Finally, last winter, just after Nana turned 99, the couple
given her the moment she'd craved so long.
announced the news she had been waiting for. She was thrilled,
but a little more serious than they had expected. "I'm very happy,"
she said. "I pray that God lets me live to see it." Always sharp and
Click to continue reading
on point, Nana asked the big question.
I'm not going to play God." She explained that genuine love was
too hard to find, and that if these two were right for each other,
then she would never stand in their way. "Besides," she said, turning her head toward them with a smile, "look at them. He makes
her so happy. So, let's make a wedding!"
But eight years went by with no engagement. They lived
together. They were committed to each other. But the topic of
when Hillary might get married was a subject that Nana never
tired of discussing. Hillary was thoughtful and patient whenever
the subject came up, but it confused Nana, and she often confided in me how much it bothered her that the couple would not

"

"Breathlessly, she said to
my brother and me, "I've tried
to be the best mommy I could be.
I want to make this an easy
ending for you."

"


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GRAND Magazine - January/February 2019

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