Ma said the suit would be blue, and brighter than navy. And it was brighter – almost a neon blue – but not harsh in tone. The fabric looked soft to touch and substantial, a good, close-weave woolen. Although the suit was a junior size – 15 or 17 – the lines were surprisingly flattering. Ma is just the reverse of standard junior proportions. She is somewhat the shape of a pear with blossom end up – a good 38” around the bust and practically nothing at the hips – and scarcely 5’ tall. However, the skirt had been slimmed to a tube around her unpadded underpinnings, and the wide turtleneck of the buttoned-over Italian-style collar on the fitted jacket drew attention away from her generous bustline. It also set up a neat frame for her face, the small features emphasized as usual with a touch of well-applied color on lips and cheeks, and by the familiar platinum-colored Lucite spectacles. The salt and pepper of her freshly permed hair was softened by a suggestion of blue rinse; the short ends were neat in back under a dainty flower caplet that picked up the blue of her suit, the pink tones of her makeup, the white of the embroidered nylon blouse (a present from Aunt Pearl, one of her four widowed sisters).
Ma wore skin-tight white kid gloves with a pearl-trimmed ruffle at the wrist, seamless nylon stockings, navy calf sling pumps cut stylishly high at the open tow to reveal the second joint, and she carried a small navy calf box purse to match. She had just tucked inside it the dainty Swiss hanky she had lent me for luck at my wedding. Now, in the rabbi’s study, she handed me her corsage to pin at her shoulder.
“I asked the florist to send orchids with blue centers,” she said as I admired the pure white blooms with their dainty gold hearts, “but I guess I was out of luck.”
“Ma – don’t say that in front of Ed,” I protested. “How lucky can you get – to catch such a good-looking kid as Ed after 32 years alone.”
They both laughed. Ed is a trim youngster at 72, but he looked maybe two-thirds his age in a new light gray suit and blending tie.
The rabbi joined their hands, first temporarily removing the betrothal ring, and giving it to Earl to hold during the ceremony. Earl stood next to Ed as best man, and that’s what he’d been to Ma until Ed came along. I stood next to Ma, completing the wedding party, a small demi-circle in front of the rabbi and the white-covered table on which waited the ceremonial tumbler, practically wrapped in cellophane so that it could be crushed at the end of the vows without making a mess on the worn carpet.
“In accordance with the laws of
and the State of Israel . . . “ he began the ancient refrains in English and Hebrew . . . and I looked around at them, one by one, from the corner of my eye. The rabbi with his iron gray hair and gnarled hands; Ed, his thatch of dark hair only touched with white at the temples, his eyes beginning to moisten behind the hornrimmed spectacles; Earl, so big and blond in his tailormade navy gabardine, ordered specially for weddings and bar mitzvahs; his mother next to me, so small to have borne him, so proud through all the years of widowhood, and now, so composed and confident in a future of companionship and comfort. Illinois
Blue centers or not, the orchids looked wonderful on Ma. And at age 68, in her junior size get-up, my mother-in-law was the cutest bride you’d ever want to see.
By Carla Harris