A TALL ‘CHUSIN’

When I was a little girl I lived in the same house as my Orthodox Jewish grandparents where our lives were regulated by the Jewish calendar. Shabbos was ushered in on Friday night with candles, Kiddush and challah.  Saturdays were quiet. Zayda went to shul in the morning, came home for lunch, napped and returned in the afternoon for services.

On Saturday evening, Zaya made Havdalah, the ceremony that separates the Sabbath from the rest of the week. Grandma took two used candles from a kitchen drawer, a can of cloves from the spice shelf, Zayda poured the Manishewitz wine into his Kiddush cup, and I was instructed to stand on a chair. All the preparations completed, Grandma lit the two candles and said, “Hold them high, so you’ll get a tall chusin.”ALPER0203

A few years later I stood under the marriage canopy and looked up at my tall, handsome bridegroom.  Grandma was right in telling me to hold the candles high up, I got a tall chusin to whom I stayed married for more than fifty years.

Although it is 57 years ago, and my chusin has been gone for almost seven, the image of the two of us together at that moment is imprinted on my mind. He standing there, so serious, and I looked up at him with stars in my eyes.  When he took my hand, and said the marriage vows, it was as if we stood alone in the universe. We set out to conquer the world together.

Marv was a gentle soul, with a great sense of humor, and a sharp mind. I envied his patience, and his ability to stay calm in the most difficult circumstances. He wrote beautifully. Shortly after he died, one of his fraternity brothers called me and said, “I never got it, I’d work weeks on a paper and maybe get a B+.  Marv sat down the night before, batted out the paper and got an A.”

“Yup,” I said, “that was Marv.”

Not only was he my best buddy, but he was also my best copy editor and my conscience.  Often I’d show him an article or a letter or a sermon, he’d review it and say, “Okay, Janice, what are you trying to say?”

I’d fumble through my thoughts, sit down and do a rewrite, and sure enough out came a better product.

He loved me unconditionally and never criticized me. There were so many moments, in our life together, he had to remind me to think about what I had said and figure out how my short temper had hurt someone or not been so tactful. He helped me work through my guilt and embarrassment, give me a hug and say, “That’s my girl.” Marv helped me become a gentler, kinder person, I hope.

We were young in 1962, I was 22 and Marv was 24…we grew up together, sometimes unevenly.  In our later years,J and M in Julian, Sept. 2012 we’d sit on the couch and hold hands. I’d say, “I’m glad you stuck it out with me.”

He’d say, “You’re still my bride.”

I’d laugh and say, “Yup, I got a tall chusin, and am I glad.”

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