It was customary to marry in the wedding dress of your mother, an honour that had been mine one year earlier. At fourteen Rutka still had the girlish figure I had lost with the birth of Miriam; only two years older, and we were worlds apart. Rutka’s veil was exquisite, and the one item that would be unique to her today. In time, mother’s wedding dress would be given to Faigie, our younger sister, but Rutka’s veil would always belong to her. The lace crochet was painstakingly looped and looped again to form a crown. Spun silk streamed out of the hindmost part of the crown and cascaded like an uninhibited waterfall down her back. Fine silver thread was embroidered temple to temple chaining a delicate row of daisies across her forehead.
I combed Rutka’s hair, patting down the wisps and coiling her long strands into a bun at the nape of her neck. My sister had such a long and elegant neck, inherited from our father’s side of the family; I couldn’t help but bend down to kiss it.
“Chana,” Rutka turned and grasped my hands. “I am afraid that when I stand my knees will give out. I will look like a little girl when I am meant to be a woman.”
“My dear sister, you and Yaacov were destined by God, and it is he who will lift you up and march with you down the aisle.”
Rutka turned back around and waited for me to fasten her veil. It took thirty-two hand beaded barrettes to circle the crown of her head and safely secure the mass of fabric—each snap breaking our silence and bringing her closer to her envisioned future.
Miriam’s cries punctuated the air. My little darling, fast asleep in the adjacent bassinet, chose this moment to let me know she was hungry—my porcelain doll alive, awake, and alert. Miriam was a spring baby, born after Pesach. Twenty-one hours in labour, exhausted and sweaty, I had joked that she had taken her time to stop and smell the roses on the way out.
She bore no resemblance to me; skin dark when I was fair, deep brown eyes so different from my ice blue, her beginning tufts of charcoal at odds with my blonde curls. The contrast made me love her even more. With each glance I was afforded the blessing of looking upon my husband and child—as it was David who Miriam most resembled.